Six young Nova Scotia men treated the sexual integrity of girls as young as 13 like “bartering chips or baseball cards” when they shared intimate images of them without their consent, the Crown argued in its sentencing recommendations.
The boys, who are all from the Bridgewater area, have admitted to forming a private Facebook group where they decided to exchange photos of at least 20 girls, ranging in age from 13 to 17, without their consent.
They were scheduled to be sentenced Monday, but the case was adjourned until Sept. 6, due in part to the fact that one of the accused did not comply with the requirements of a pre-sentence report.
Defence lawyers had also asked for more time after the Crown submitted a brief outlining proposed penalties.
The 21-page document, submitted in Bridgewater provincial court, says the young men should be prohibited from using social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat.
“They treated the victims’ sexual integrity as bartering chips or baseball cards that could then be traded and circulated amongst friends,” the Crown brief states.
“This objectifies the female victims and undermines their autonomy.”
It recommends against jail time, but says the six young men should be on probation for two years, with the possibility of reducing that.
“We’re expecting that the sentencing hearing is going to be in dispute – what the proper penalty is definitely not agreed upon by the defence,” Crown attorney Peter Dostal said outside court.
“This isn’t a prosecution of just people sexting. This is a prosecution of people misusing these materials, disseminating them and potentially putting them out there for the whole world and that is the real evil that the criminal law has been attempting to stop.”
The Crown brief also said the boys should be barred from contacting the victims, undergo counselling, try to find work or attend educational programming and complete community service.
The defence lawyers declined to comment as they left court.
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When the six were charged in July 2016, four of the accused were 15 years old and the other two were 18. However, all were under 18 when the offences were committed, which means their identities are protected from publication under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The victims’ identities are also protected.
The case is one of Canada’s largest involving a relatively untested law introduced in 2015 to combat the non-consensual sharing of intimate images. It came after the suicide of Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons, whose family says a photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted was circulated among students at her school in Cole Harbour.
Court documents said two Dropbox accounts were created for the purpose of sharing dozens of intimate images of girls in various states of undress or naked. An agreed statement of facts said everyone who uploaded photos either knew outright or were “wilfully blind” to the fact that the subjects didn’t consent to their distribution.
In the agreed statement, the photos’ subjects cited a variety of motivations for sending the images.
Some said they felt pressured by what they described as persistent requests for intimate images, while others said they were vying for boys’ affections or just joking around, the statement said.
The document said one 13-year-old girl was repeatedly asked for sexual photos by one of the accused over the course of several days, despite persistent rejection. Another girl who was 14 at the time said the boy would talk about how they could trust each other, then asked her for naked photos.
In the sentencing document, the Crown dismisses the argument that some of the young men allegedly provided unsolicited intimate images of themselves to the girls.
“Any reliance upon the accused as being victims of the female’s actions further perpetuates the trend of victim blaming,” it states.