2018 ONSC 1389

In 2018 ONSC 1389, Mr. E and Mr. H were found guilty of trafficking a minor, procuring a minor to provide sexual services, receiving material benefit from trafficking a minor, sexual interference, sexual assault and unlawful confinement. Mr. M was found guilty of trafficking a minor, procuring a minor to provide sexual services, and receiving a material benefit from trafficking a minor.

Ms. S, a 15-year-old girl with a drug dependency, had run away from home. She contacted a male teenage friend, who she only knew through social media, and texted for help. Unbeknownst to her, her friend had been in contact with an adult man through social media who was looking for young females to traffic and would pay her friend for putting him in contact with young females. Her friend put Ms. S in contact with this man through social media so she could make some money, which she understood as selling drugs. However, when she arrived at the hotel in a different city she was drugged and held against her will by three men. Two of her captors repeatedly sexually assaulted her. They took sexualized photos of her and posted an online advertisement for her sexual services, forced her to provide sexual services and kept all of the money paid for those services. Her captors threatened her with violence and grabbed her, bruising her. She tried to text her mother for help, but did not know where she was to give her mother directions. One of her captors used his phone to check and modify the sexual services advertised on the Backpage account, another used his cell phone as the contact number on the ad. Eventually, Ms. S was able to escape with her cellphone and ran to a store for help. There she learned she could make emergency calls despite not having a service plan for calls on her cellphone, which she had not known, and she then contacted the police with her cell phone. One of her captors used her Facebook account to try and determine her location following her escape.

Ms. S faced long term mental health impacts, struggled in school, attempted suicide, and was plagued by anxiety and fear that make it difficult for her to leave home by herself following her exploitation. She was further traumatized when details of her exploitation were published in a local paper.

When discussing a proposed prohibition on internet use for one of the offenders, Mr. E, the court stated[1]:

The criminal enterprise in which [Mr. E] was involved unquestionably involved the use of the internet, (such as social media and the posting of photo advertisements on websites), as well as the use of cellular telephones, (such as the use of [Mr.E]’s phone to text organizational messages, monitor and modify the website advertising the sexual services of [Ms. S], and efforts to track her whereabouts, following her escape, through her Facebook account). In the circumstances, the concerns expressed by the Crown in relation to future possible use of such systems and devices by [Mr. E] have merit.

However, as I observed in my earlier sentencing decision, in today’s modern world, people increasingly are obliged to use the internet more and more in their everyday lives, including their employment and communications with service providers. Similarly, telephone landlines increasingly are being replaced by wireless telephones, and public telephones are increasingly scarce. In such an environment, it seems to me that an order preventing a relatively youthful offender from having any access whatsoever to the internet or cellular telephones, for several decades, is not merely preventative but also inherently punitive, and may very well create a serious impediment to long term rehabilitation and productive reintegration into society.

While such orders may be appropriate in some cases, they should be avoided if more limited preventative restrictions, tailored to the situation, are possible and appropriate.

Her three captors, Mr. M, Mr. E, and Mr. M, were sentenced with 6, 7, and 9 years of imprisonment, respectively. Ancillary orders including a mandatory weapons prohibition, a DNA sample order, a lifetime sexual offenders registration, no contact orders with Ms. S, her mother, and any siblings or children of Ms. S during their custodial sentences, forfeiture of cell phones used in the offence, an order to keep distance from Ms. S, a prohibition from volunteering or working with youth under 16, no communication with people under 16 except for strict exceptions, and a 30 year limitation on internet and cell phone use (no social media accounts; online postings/offerings/websites must include full name; no interactive messages when offering services).

Also see: 2018 ONSC 1152 (Sentencing); 2017 ONSC 5290 (Vior Dire); 2017 ONSC 6150 (Voir Dire).

[1] 2018 ONSC 1389 at para 96.

Criminal Offence(s): Human Trafficking and Advertising Sexual Services, Sexual Assault