Sharing sexual images could land Vancouver man in jail

A Vancouver man's decision to share deeply intimate pictures of his former girlfriend without her consent could result in jail time under the provisions of legislation designed to deter revenge pornography and cyber-bullying.

Accused sent intimate images of former girlfriend to her family, her friend and her co-worker

A Vancouver man is facing the possibility of jail time after admitting to sharing intimate images of a former partner without her consent. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

A Vancouver man's decision to share deeply intimate pictures of his former girlfriend without her consent could result in jail time under legislation designed to deter revenge pornography and cyberbullying.

The man can't be identified under the terms of a publication ban on the name of the victim and witnesses in the case. Sentencing arguments took place Monday in the Provincial Court of British Columbia in Vancouver. 

The Crown says the 40-year-old should get one to three months' jail for a crime that "devastated" the victim.

He pleaded guilty to sending images of the woman's vagina and her breasts along with three other images, that made it clear who she was, to her cousin, her co-worker and her friend through Facebook.

According to the Crown, the images found their way to eastern Europe, where both the woman and the man are originally from and where the pictures were widely seen.

Prosecutor Isobel Keeley told Judge Jennifer Oulton the man should serve his sentence in "real jail" — as opposed to under house arrest in the community.

"This is an extremely serious crime with extremely serious consequences for the victim," Keeley said. "Jail is necessary."

Oulton will hand down her sentence on May 10.

Response to cyberbullying

The charge — publication of an intimate image without consent — came into force in March 2015 as part of the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act. As Keeley mentioned in her submissions, the law was drawn up in response to public outrage over the suicides of Amanda Todd and Rehtaeh Parsons.

The accused was married when he met the victim through an online dating site. According to defence lawyer Paul Janzen, after their affair ended the woman kept repeatedly calling the man.

Janzen said the man claimed he had also been the victim of the publication of embarrassing images when the woman's phone was hacked and photographs of them both engaged in sexual activity ended up on the internet.

But Keeley said the Crown had no evidence about that claim.

But they did have copies of the intimate pictures the man sent through Facebook Messenger in July 2016, a month after the couple broke up. As described in court, the photograph of the woman's breasts also contained an image of her hand and a distinctive ring and nail polish that made her identifiable.

Publication of Intimate Image Without Consent came into force in 2015 under provisions of a law drawn up in response to outrage over the suicides of two teens, including Amanda Todd, seen here.

The accused and his wife are still together. She sat in the courtroom as the two lawyers made their submissions to the judge, getting up from her seat to leave the room as Keeley described the intimate photographs in detail.

Janzen said his client should be given a conditional discharge or suspended sentence: He pleaded guilty, has no criminal record and admitted only to sending the images to the three people — as opposed to the online world.

He said the man also suffered post-traumatic stress after being held in custody over night after his initial arrest.

Range of sentences

The range of sentences handed out under the relatively new law provides a snapshot of a humiliating modern crime enabled by social media and the ubiquity of cellphone cameras.

Most of the seven cases cited by both lawyers involved young men with no criminal records. Some of them involved women who were photographed or filmed without their consent.

Several involved the posting of images to websites dedicated to amateur pornography.

Sharing intimate images without consent earned one Canadian man five months in jail according to case law presented for sentencing. The victim in that case learned of the crime by Googling herself. (Michael Dalder/Reuters)

The longest sentence was five months for an Ontario case in which a 32-year-old posted videos to a website called Xvideos.com accompanied by graphic titles which included the woman's first and last name.

Keeley noted that the victim in that case found out about the crime when she searched herself on the internet. Parts of her victim impact statement are included in the Ontario Court of Justice judgment.

"To this very day I'm afraid to Google my name, knowing that I will see the very things that I don't want to see," the woman said. "Who I am, who I wanted to be, I don't think I can be any of that anymore."

Janzen pointed out that some of the images in the other cases were taken without the victim's consent and others were posted widely, whereas he said his client had no such intentions.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.