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'Sexting' B.C. teen convicted for distributing porn has sentencing delayed

02/26/2015 10:38 EST | Updated 04/28/2015 05:59 EDT
A Victoria teenager found guilty of distributing child pornography after "sexting" pictures of her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend will have to wait a little longer to learn her fate.

A sentencing hearing for the 18-year-old, who cannot be identified because she was a minor at the time of the offence, was scheduled for today. However, the judge asked to review a pre-sentence report and reserved the decision until April.

The young woman was convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography and of uttering threats in January 2014, but a constitutional argument and other legal machinations have delayed sentencing until now.

Her lawyer, Christopher Mackie, said his client is not a paedophile and she should have been charged with criminal harassment instead.

"Child pornography is something very different and if it is about bullying, which the Crown today conceded, then child porn charges ought never to have been considered," he said.

Mackie said being labelled a child pornographer has created a "tremendous amount of fallout" for his client.

"She had to change schools. She was subjected to bullying and harassment. It's impacted her future plans. She doesn't feel she can continue to pursue her career aspirations in another province because of these bail conditions she's subject to, and she's changed her plans to go to post-secondary school as a result of it as well."

Push to prosecute 'sexting'

The young woman has admitted to sharing sexually explicit photographs of another teenage girl out of jealousy and revenge. In an interview with CBC's The Current, she said she was angry and did not realize the consequences of her actions.

"Obviously I knew it wasn't right, but I didn't know how serious it could get," she said.

The woman's conviction is believed to be the first time in Canada a teenager has been convicted of distributing child pornography for "sexting."

Her case followed several other high-profile cases involving young people sharing of intimate images of other teenagers online.

The family of Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons says the 17-year-old took her own life after she was sexually assaulted at house party two years earlier, and an explicit photo of the attack was circulated online.

A young man admitted to sharing the photo, and pleaded guilty to one count of production and distribution of child pornography in November. He was 17 at the time of the offence.

In 2010, a 16-year-old Maple Ridge boy was charged with production and distribution of child pornography after he circulated images of a teenage girl having sex at a rave. He pleaded guilty to a lesser count of distributing obscene material.

Child porn charges 'inappropriate,' says advocate

Caroline MacGillivray​ with the Safe Online Education Society said teens sharing explicit images of other teens online is a growing trend. However, she said charging them with child pornography is not an appropriate way to deal with the problem.

"In terms of child pornography laws, I believe they were created to protect children against adults as opposed to children who are doing things like flashing [and] sharing pictures," she said. 

"It's challenging because, of course, what goes online stays online. But as teens, sometimes they're not aware things public and permanent. ... Yes, wrong was done, but I don't feel that somebody should be considered a sex offender because of what's happened."

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