A judge ordered a local man to pay $30,500 to his ex-girlfriend, as restitution for posting nude photos of her on the internet.
The 25-year-old man, who cannot be named for fear of identifying the victim, pleaded guilty to publishing intimate images without consent. He appeared in Prince Albert’s provincial courthouse on Monday, where Judge Matsalla also sentenced him to two years probation.
“The effect on the complainant is profound,” Matsalla said. “In this case the harm will be ongoing and may continue for a long period of time.”
He said he was convinced that the photos were posted out of “revenge.”
The man and the victim were both 18 years old, and dating, when he took 10 intimate photos of her. They broke up months later, and he posted the photos online. They soon spread to a number of websites.
Even his defence lawyer, Mary McAuley, said he posted the photos out of vindictiveness and anger after a “bad break up.” She said he was intoxicated when he committed the crime.
The victim was first alerted to the publication of the images years later, when men began soliciting her for sex through online messaging. She found out that she had been identified, by name and location, on the sites hosting the photos.
She has since taken steps to remove them, Crown prosecutor Shawn Blackman told the court. The process is extremely difficult and expensive. She wants to hire a firm that specializes in the removal of “revenge porn,” and got a $30,500 quote for their services.
The Crown and the defence agreed to recommend a restitution order, obliging the man to pay that sum. They only disagreed over the specific terms of his probation. Blackman sought to prohibit the man from using a computer, a smartphone or any device with internet access.
McAuley said that would make it almost impossible for the man to find a job.
The lawyers argued at length about whether the man was remorseful, and appreciated the impact his actions had on his ex-girlfriend. In a victim impact statement, the woman spoke of the consequences the images have had for her relationship with her parents, her professional prospects and her romantic life.
“The internet never forgets,” Blackman said. “As a result of that, the complainant faces a potential violation of her privacy rights by strangers in perpetuity.”
But in a pre-sentence report prepared for the court, the man seemed to view the whole matter as an “overreaction.” According to Blackman, the man “feels the offences are stupid because they happened in the past.” He said the man came across as “very cold and uncaring.”
“The charges were an overreaction on the part of the victim and the justice system,” the man indicated, according to Blackman’s reading of the report.
McAuley disagreed. She admitted that the publication “was retaliatory; it was vindictive.” But she said he was so intoxicated, and the events were so far in the past, that he barely remembered posting the images when he was charged.
“He in no way is disrespectful to women,” she said. “He is struggling with this… He has been going through a lot of depression.”
The Crown also pointed out that the man was rated in the “high” range to reoffend sexually. But McAuley said that made him out to be some sort of “deviant.” She said he isn’t a long-term sexual offender, and argued against the internet provisions the Crown was seeking.
“If it was somebody that was in their home uploading child porn on a daily basis, all the time, I could see that – get the computer away from him,” she said. “But here we have one isolated opportunistic crime that has major ramifications for the complainant.
“We have to help him so he can get that job,” she continued. “If he can’t pay this, how do we get those images down?”
The judge ultimately chose to restrict the man’s internet, computer and smartphone use during his probation. But he allowed for a probation officer to relax the condition in order to allow the man to look for employment or pursue education. He also imposed a clause to keep the man away from the victim, and to forbid him from possessing drugs, alcohol or firearms.
Blackman said that the case was one of the first to come up in Saskatchewan under the sharing intimate images law. He drew parallels with the cases of Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd, young women who committed suicide because of cyberbullying.
The man spoke to the Herald briefly as he walked through the parking lot, away from the courthouse. He took issue with the Crown’s argument that he never showed remorse.
“She didn’t deserve that,” he said. “I feel awful.”