POLITICS

Halifax man fined for publishing sexual assault victim's name on Facebook

03/30/2015 02:10 EDT | Updated 05/30/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - A Halifax judge says she wanted to send a message of deterrence as she sentenced a man Monday to a year of probation and fined him $1,950 for breaking a publication ban by naming a sexual assault victim on Facebook.

Provincial court Judge Alanna Murphy said publication ban violations on social media will likely become more common and she wanted to discourage people from committing such offences, particularly when they involve victims of sexual assault.

"Imposing a discharge in this offence would be contrary to public interest," Murphy said in sentencing David Winslow Sparks.

"The consequences (of the offence) are irreparable."

Sparks, 62, pleaded guilty in January to violating a publication ban that protected the identity of a woman who was sexually assaulted.

He posted the woman's name on a Facebook group page in support of Lyle Howe, a local lawyer who was convicted last year of sexually assaulting her. Howe has filed an appeal in that case.

The woman said in a victim impact statement she was blindsided when her name was posted online.

"I hope the actions of one angry individual intent on hurting me doesn't stop others from coming forward for justice," said the statement, read by the Crown in court earlier this month.

"One post can be seen around the world in a second and ruin someone's life in the blink of an eye."

The Facebook group had more than 6,000 members at the time Sparks named the victim in a post, according to a screenshot presented in court.

Murphy said she considered mitigating factors in her ruling, including the fact that Sparks is active in the community, took responsibility for the offence and there is no reason to believe he would commit it again.

If a similar offence were committed by a different person, jail time would have been a possibility, Murphy added.

Crown lawyer Janine Kidd said outside court she was satisfied with the sentence, particularly the judge's decision not to grant a discharge as requested by the defence.

"This is a situation where we're catching up to the times," Kidd said.

"Unfortunately, I think we're going to see more and more of these kinds of cases. The decision not to impose a discharge — considering the impact it could have on other victims — the Crown is quite satisfied with that."

Murphy set a $1,500 fine for the offence and a $450 victim surcharge.