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Police officer in 'revenge porn' case sues over distribution of intimate images

The last thing Brittany Roque expected to learn as she applied for a job with the Brandon Police Service was that the force had received intimate images of the young police cadet.

'Revenge porn is a growing problem that can have devastating and lifelong consequences on its victims'

Brittany Roque is suing a woman she alleges distributed intimate images of her, in what is one of the first 'revenge porn' cases to test new legislation in Manitoba. (Warren Kay/CBC)

The last thing Brittany Roque expected to learn as she applied for a job with the Brandon Police Service in southern Manitoba was that the force had received intimate images of the young police cadet.

Roque is now suing a woman she alleges distributed the photos in what is one of the first "revenge porn" cases to test new legislation in Manitoba.

"I think people need to understand that this is unacceptable behaviour. There is a law put in place, and the police are put there to protect victims," said Roque, who lives in Brandon and is now a police officer in Rivers, Man.

She believes the images may have spoiled her hiring chances with Brandon police.

Brittany Roque sent intimate images of herself to a police officer with whom she had an affair. She thought the images had been destroyed when the relationship ended, but later found out they had not been. 0:20

"My hope is that by coming forward and telling my side of the story, it will empower victims to come forward and not let the fear get to them."

Roque had sent the images by text message to a male Brandon police officer while they were having an affair that lasted about three months during the summer of 2015.

She said the images consisted of bra and underwear shots and one nude photo, where her face is not shown.

You do a lot of blaming of yourself. But at the end of the day, I'm still a victim.- Brittany Roque, police officer

She said she had expected the officer to delete the images when the affair ended just as she had deleted the intimate images the officer sent her of himself during their relationship.  

'I'm still a victim'

More than a year later, a woman who had been romantically involved with the officer at the time Roque had the affair with him found the images on his computer, made copies of them and gave them to the Brandon Police Service, the statement of claim alleges.

The suit was filed in Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench in November. The amount of damages being sought is not specified.

"Embarrassment, humiliation — you do a lot of blaming of yourself. But at the end of the day, I'm still a victim," Roque said. 

The allegations contained in Roque's lawsuit have not been proven in court and the defendant in the lawsuit, Terry Lynn Peters, of Brandon, denies the claims. The former civilian employee of the Brandon Police Service has not yet filed a statement of defence with the court, but CBC has seen a draft of the statement.

"We wholly deny the allegations made by Ms. Roque and are unable to comment further while the matter is pending before the courts," Peters's lawyer, Rhea Majewski, said in an email to CBC News.

The lawsuit seeks damages to be paid to the plaintiff, as well as a court injunction ordering anyone, including the defendant, who may have copies of the intimate images to destroy them and not distribute them any further. 

"The defendant's intentional and malicious misconduct is a form of what is commonly referred to as 'revenge porn'. Revenge porn is a growing problem that can have devastating and lifelong consequences on its victims (primarily girls and young women)," the statement of claim reads.

'The impact of revenge porn can be absolutely devastating and life altering,' says Roque's lawyer, Kevin Toyne. (Warren Kay/CBC)

The lawsuit also seeks an order for the defendant to pay damages to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection — an organization that offers help to victims of revenge porn — an amount equal to what is awarded to the plaintiff.

Criminal code offence

Under an amendment to Canada's Criminal Code that took effect in 2015, it's a criminal offence to knowingly distribute an intimate image of a person, without the consent of the person depicted in the image. An intimate image is described in the Criminal Code as one in which the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or breasts, or is engaged in explicit sexual activity.

In the first year of the new law, 28 people across the country were charged under section 162.1, according to Statistics Canada.

In addition to relying on the Criminal Code, the lawsuit also relies on Manitoba's Intimate Image Protection Act, which took effect in 2016 and enables someone to sue for financial compensation in cases of non-consensual distribution of sexual imagery.

Roque's lawsuit expressly waives her right under Manitoba law to seek a publication ban on her identity.

University of Manitoba law professor Karen Busby calls Roque's lawsuit 'a very interesting case.' (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

"The impact of revenge porn can be absolutely devastating and life altering," said Roque's lawyer, Kevin Toyne of Winnipeg. "I don't think that people really understand just how serious this is.

I don't think that people really understand just how serious this is.- Kevin Toyne, lawyer

"As people start to realize that revenge porn is a crime, and that revenge porn is something that you could be sued for, hopefully people will start to think twice both before sharing images and also before sharing someone's images without their consent."

'People are going to do this'

University of Manitoba law professor Karen Busby said it's an interesting case and, to the best of her knowledge, is the first claim under the Manitoba law.

She said young people sharing intimate images with each other has become commonplace, but it also happens to adults too.

"I think in this day and age, it's really hard to preach abstinence," she said of the practice. "People are going to do this." 

Those sharing sensitive images should be having conversations with their partners "about how the images will be used, what their expectations of privacy are, and what will happen to the images at the end of the relationship should it end, Busby said.

There should be a clear understanding that the images will be destroyed, she said.

"If they share these images, they could get into a lot of trouble."

In addition to the civil lawsuit, Roque has also filed a criminal complaint against Peters, which is being investigated by RCMP.

Text message threats

Roque said it was in the early months of 2017 when she got her first inkling that the images had not been deleted by the police officer after their relationship ended.

That's when Roque says she started getting numerous text messages from Peters "confirming the non-consensual distribution of the intimate images and threatening further distribution," the statement of claim says. 

The non-consensual distribution of the images was an "act of revenge and retaliation" against Roque for her brief relationship with the officer, the claim says — an allegation specifically denied by the defence. The claim does not name the male officer Roque was involved with.

Peters's draft statement of defence denies she distributed the images but says that if any distribution occurred, it was "for the public good and in the public interest."

The defence alleges the intimate images had been shared previously by officers and therefore Roque cannot claim the images were confidential. It is not specified which officers shared the images.

Complaint about Brandon police

Roque is also unhappy with the way Brandon police handled the issue. 

She said she learned through documents released to her under freedom of information laws that rather than treating the photographs as evidence in a possible crime, Brandon police destroyed the USB drive that held the images.

A copy of handwritten notes from a senior officer said the drive was smashed to pieces with a hammer and also that electronic files were deleted from a police computer.  

The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which looks into serious incidents involving police officers in the province, told CBC News it has completed an investigation into allegations of conduct and criminal offences against the Brandon Police Service connected to Roque's case.

The allegations included obstruction of justice.

Revenge porn's latest victim is a young Canadian police officer, who is coming forward after images she shared with another officer were made public. Brittany Roque believed the photos had been destroyed, but two years later they were sent to a potential employer. Roque has launched a civil suit that will test a new Manitoba law that helps victims of revenge porn sue those who share their images without consent. 2:52

The IIU says it won't make its report public until the RCMP has concluded its investigation.

"The statement of claim contains certain allegations about the Brandon Police Service and its personnel which the Brandon Police Service disputes and says are inaccurate," Brandon police Chief Wayne Balcaen told CBC News in an email. Balcaen said he has not seen the intimate images and did not distribute them.

Roque's lawyer said his client has also filed complaints with the Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA) regarding the conduct of four senior officers on Balcaen's force. 

LERA commissioner Max Churley told CBC News the agency received a complaint last July and closed the file in February, but it will not divulge the outcome until the findings of the IIU and RCMP investigations are finalized.


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