NEWS

Halifax Child Pornography Case Sees One Of Accused Plead Guilty

09/22/2014 11:11 EDT | Updated 11/22/2014 05:59 EST
Andrew Rich via Getty Images
HALIFAX - The mother of a teenage girl victimized in a prominent child pornography case said she felt a measure of comfort Monday after one of the accused pleaded guilty, but she also believes her daughter's story is not getting the attention it deserves because of a statutory publication ban.

"I do feel some solace in that she just wanted to be validated," the mother said after one of two young men charged in the case in Halifax pleaded guilty to making child pornography.

"She wanted ... people to know that this actually happened to her instead of being blamed for ... (it)."

But the mother said a mandatory publication ban that prevents her daughter, now deceased, from being identified has effectively silenced her.

"The reason she came forward and she was brave and told her story is because she didn't want the silence," the mother said outside youth court.

"She's no longer here, so I don't agree with it at all, and I do feel that people should say her name."

The Crown dropped a second charge of distributing child pornography against the accused, who is now 20 but cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act because the offence occurred when he was 17.

Based on an agreed statement of facts read into the court record by Crown lawyer Alexander Smith, the teen girl, then 15, went to the accused's house where she, a friend and four male youths drank alcohol in the fall of 2011.

Smith said the accused took a photograph later that night with his cellphone camera of one of the male youths having sex with the girl while she was vomiting. She was unaware that the picture was being taken and did not give consent to it, Smith said.

After the accused was arrested in the summer of 2013, he told police that he sent the photograph to the male youth who had sex with the girl the next day, Smith said. The accused is not alleged to have sent the photograph to anyone else, but the image was distributed to numerous people, most of whom attended the same high school the girl did.

The girl died after she was taken off life-support following a suicide attempt in the spring of 2013. Her family says she was bullied for months as a result of the photo.

Judge Gregory Lenehan sealed the image by court order. Smith said that, to the best of the knowledge of police, the photo is no longer available online.

The girl's case generated international headlines since last year. But in May, a judge upheld a publication ban under the Criminal Code that prohibits the identification of victims in child pornography cases.

At the time, provincial court Judge Jamie Campbell said while the case is unusual, lifting the ban could have set a precedent that leads to the identification of victims in other child pornography cases.

The accused has a sentencing hearing scheduled for Nov. 13. The other accused, now 19, is scheduled to stand trial in November on a charge of distributing child pornography.

A review has been launched to examine how police and prosecutors in Nova Scotia handled the girl's allegations at first.

Initially, police said they looked into accusations of sexual assault and an inappropriate photo but after consulting with the province's Public Prosecution Service, they concluded there weren't enough grounds to lay charges.

A week after the girl died, police reopened their investigation after receiving what they said was new information.

The father of the girl said Monday he is looking forward to the findings of that review.

"We're looking forward to answers to these questions because this guilty plea is good, but this guilty plea also opens a great big door where that big question has to be asked," the father said.

"Why wasn't something done when it would've made a difference?"