A provincial court judge in Victoria, B.C., has found a 17-year-old Saanich girl guilty of distributing child porn for "sexting" pictures of her boyfriend's ex.

The teen was convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography and uttering threats. It is believed to be the first time in Canada a teenager has been convicted of pornography offences related to so-called "sexting."

The case had all the hallmarks of a modern-day teenage drama: a jealous new girlfriend, intimate photos of her boyfriend's former girlfriend and text messaging.

During the trial, the Crown argued the accused, who cannot be identified because she was a 16-year-old minor at the time of the offence, sent nude pictures of her boyfriend's ex to a friend and posted one to the victim's Facebook page in an attempt to humiliate the other girl and prevent the old romance from being rekindled.

The one-day trial on Thursday focused on three images and a handful of text messages that were shared between the accused, her friend, the boyfriend and the victim.

The Crown also argued that the accused made threats in text messages to the ex-girlfriend in November of 2012, threatening to "stomp" her if she moved to her school.

Defence to launch constitutional challenge

After the verdict was announced, the accused's lawyer, Christopher Mackie, said the charge does not fit the crime.

"These child pornography laws were intended to protect children, not to persecute them, and again it seems the criminal justice system, it's a heavy hammer to be using," he said.

The federal government has introduced a new law that is intended to address the issue of sexting, which Mackie believes would be more appropriate in cases like this. 

Mackie said he already filed a constitutional challenge last September, and that he plans to file an abuse-of-process application.

Crown prosecutor Chandra Fisher admitted the case was unusual, and is possibly precedent-setting.

"It may well be difficult to find precedents. I've had a quick look already and nothing I've found quite fits," said Fisher.

Mackie also said the family of the convicted teen feels she was singled out, when others were involved.

"There seems to be a number of people involved, but there has only been one person charged with an offence," Mackie said.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story said the investigation focused on 36,000 text messages and 4,000 images that were shared between a group of teens over a period of two months. In fact, only three images and a handful of texts out of those thousands of messages were the focus of the trial.
    Jan 10, 2014 8:49 PM PT
With files from the CBC's Lisa Cordasco