2018 MBCA 48

In 2018 MBCA 48, Mr. M appealed his sentence of 18 months’ imprisonment and three years’ probation after pleading guilty to voyeurism, the non-consensual distribution of intimate images, and extortion, along with conditions that he report intimate images to probation services and not possess devices that can access the internet without permission. The judge stated that this “sentence appeal illustrated the pernicious effects that the misuse of technology can have on personal privacy and sexual integrity.”[1]

When Mr. M was 19, he surreptitiously filmed his sister’s 17-year-old friend while she undressed and showered at their family home. He admitted to being aroused by “peeping tom” pornography and the feeling of being in control. Five years later, he tried to use the film to extort the woman in the film by threatening to disseminate images from the film online.

The court noted that Mr. M engaged in the following behaviour:

To carry out the sextortion, he created multiple email accounts under pseudonyms, he extracted several nude or semi-nude still images from the 2010 recording and he manipulated the image using software to hide their source.

Between July and October 2015, he sent emails from the fake accounts with the intimate images to the complainant and her sister. The emails were menacing. The emails said that cooperation with the demands was the only way to avoid internet publication. [2]

The complainant informed the police, but she did not know who had taken the images and who the extortionist was. The police had difficulties investigating the account because he had deleted the email accounts after using them to send the images. The police were eventually able to discover that the emails had come from Los Angeles.

She wrote back to one of the emails asking what the extortionist wanted and he requested an image of her in a bra, which she refused. Mr. M later contacted the victim claiming his email had been hacked and he had received a copy of the photos, offering to have his tech-savvy friends help her by using more sexualized images of her as bait to trap the extortionist. She thought this was suspicious and reported it to the police. Upon moving back to Winnipeg, the police searched Mr. M’s computer and found the images. He confessed to taking the images and using them to extort her upon arrest.

The court noted the significant impact the offence had on the victim, stating:

The events terrified her, exacerbated her anxiety disorder and took over her life. She lived in constant fear that the extortionist had more intimate images of her and was going to eventually hurt, rape or kill her. She struggled in university, was physically ill and could not sleep. She became disassociated and lost her self-esteem. The intensity of her emotions and fear became so unbearable that she contemplated suicide to free herself from the grip of the extortionist. While the accused’s arrest brought some closure, she is haunted by the experience and is so fearful of surveillance that she routinely checks for hidden cameras in bathrooms. She is afraid of being physically harmed by the accused and men generally.[3]

The court noted that:

It is also important to appreciate that sextortion is a form of sexual violence even though it occurs through the medium of the internet. As with physical abuse, a victim’s freedom of choice over his or her sexual integrity is violated. The long-term psychological harm to a victim, as was seen here, closely resembles what happens in a case of physical sexual assault (see R v Innes, 2008 ABCA 129 at paras 7, 11; and R v NG et al, 2015 MBCA 81 at para 33). Finally, it is difficult to hold such offenders accountable because the crime is remotely committed and the nature of the internet provides predators with a degree of anonymity; in this case, it took the efforts of five different law-enforcement agencies in two countries over many months to solve the case.[4]

It also noted that the non-consensual distribution of intimate images and voyeurism are both sexual offences and a privacy offences.

The court allowed the for an adjustment of the sentences for voyeurism (reduced to 3 months) and extortion (reduced to 15 months), did not change the sentence for the non-consensual distribution of intimate images (6 months) and deleted the condition of probation that required him to report intimate images to his probation officer, but it did not change the combined length of imprisonment (18 months) nor remove his internet limitations.

[1] 2018 MBCA 48 at para 1.
[2] 2018 MBCA 48 at paras 5-6.
[3] 2018 MBCA 48 at para 11.
[4] 2018 MBCA 48 at para 19.


Criminal Offence(s): Extortion, Voyeurism