News / Canada

Newfoundland teen gets probation for circulating nude photos of schoolmate

CORNER BROOK, N.L. — A 16-year-old Newfoundland boy who circulated nude pictures of a 15-year-old female schoolmate has been sentenced to 18 months' probation for possession of child pornography.

Judge Wayne Gorman says the boy asked for the photos, and then showed them to some students before sending them electronically to others.

"As can be expected, the pictures were circulated at the school, and this has made school life for (the girl) very difficult," said Gorman.

The judge said the girl's victim impact statement "elegantly described" how it changed her life.

"I feel like I am never going to get my old life back again," the girl wrote. "I feel ashamed of my body and I try to hide it the best way possible."

People were treating her differently since the photos were shared, she wrote.

"I feel like I am not as close as I was before with my friends or family especially my mom and dad. I feel like there are pieces missing between us and I miss those pieces."

Gorman said the boy would have known what high school life would be like for her once he circulated the pictures.

Under the sentence released Friday in Corner Brook provincial court, the teen must also perform 25 hours of community service and submit a DNA sample.

Gorman accepted a joint submission from the Crown and defence, saying he would not jail the boy because there was insufficient evidence to establish that a violent offence had been committed.

"In the circumstances of this case, the evidence presented is insufficient to establish that a 'violent offence' as defined in the Youth Criminal Justice Act was committed," said Gorman. "Thus I do not have the authority to impose a custodial sentence."

The judge said he had little leeway to reject the joint sentencing recommendation, saying the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal has made its view on such submissions clear.

"More recent jurisprudence suggests a significantly reduced judicial discretion to do so," Gorman said.

As for whether such cases involve violent acts, Gorman cited a Nova Scotia case where a young offender had pleaded guilty to theft and possession of child pornography. The judge in that case rejected a joint sentencing recommendation and concluded that possession of child pornography was a violent offence.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal subsequently concluded the trial judge had erred, noting that "while the victim impact statements speak of shame, regret and occasional anxiety there is no indication of any turbulent emotion or continued distress."

Gorman said even if he had such authority, he had no basis to refuse to endorse the agreement reached by counsel in this case.

He also noted the teen apologized for his actions, and has no prior convictions.

— By Keith Doucette in Halifax