NEWS

Halifax Child Pornography Case: Police Investigating Complaints After Victim's Name Published

11/25/2014 09:44 EST | Updated 01/25/2015 05:59 EST
HALIFAX - Police have launched an investigation into a possible breach of a publication ban after a major news outlet in Halifax published the name of a teenage girl at the centre of a high-profile child pornography case.

Const. Pierre Bourdages said Tuesday that they had received several reports from citizens complaining about the use of the girl's name, which is subject to a publication ban under the Criminal Code.

"There's already been a number of complaints filed with the department in relation to this article," he said.

"There's an alleged breach of the publication ban ... so we have an investigation ongoing now."

The news outlet said late Monday that it decided to name the girl because it believes doing so is in the public interest given the widespread recognition of her name and the good that can come from free public debate over sexual consent and other elements of her story.

The girl's family has been steadfast in their opposition to the ban, arguing that concealing her name ends up silencing her and suppressing part of her story.

Her father, who often wore T-shirts bearing her name in court, said he was thrilled to see the outlet use his daughter's name.

"It's fantastic," he said. "Her name should be a part of the story and she would never have wanted to be silenced. The ban in this case was inappropriate."

The news outlet's decision came the same day a second young man pleaded guilty in the case in youth court. The man will be sentenced in January for distributing a sexually graphic image of the 15-year-old girl, who died last year following a suicide attempt. He cannot be identified because he was a minor at the time of the offence.

Court heard that one teen boy — who was given a conditional discharge for making child pornography — took a photo of another having sex with the girl without her knowledge and as she vomited out a window. The photo was shared electronically.

Others have published her name on social media sites.

On Nov. 14, Halifax police said it investigated seven instances at that time where references to her name were made by both citizens and local media.

"Investigators considered whether the victim's name was used in connection with the child pornography charges as well as the overall context in which her name was used," police said in a statement.

Based on that and consultation with the Crown, charges were not laid, police said.

Chris Hansen of the province's Public Prosecution Service said they consulted police in the seven previous instances, but concluded that there was either not a likely chance of conviction or that if there was, it was not in the public interest to pursue it.

She said they considered several factors, including the past publicity and widespread publication of her name, the wishes of her family to have her name published and the possibility that it would facilitate public debate on a "serious societal issue."

Hansen also cited as part of their determination comments made by Judge Jamie Campbell who upheld the ban, but said in his decision that it "serves no purpose."

She stressed that the recommendation to police that charges not be laid in the previous possible breaches doesn't mean there couldn't be charges in the future or that victims in other cases should fear that breaches would not be prosecuted.

"We don't want other victims of a criminal offence where the law protects their identity to be concerned that a breach of a publication ban will not be taken seriously and pursued vigorously," she said.

Hansen said the penalties for violating the publication ban range from a conditional discharge to a fine of $5,000 and a sentence of up to six months in prison.

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