The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered a new trial for an Edmonton man charged with luring a 12-year-old girl in an internet chat room.
In a 7-0 decision, the top court ruled that the judge at Craig Legare's 2006 trial erred by acquitting him.
Writing for the unanimous bench, Justice Morris Fish said that the trial judge adopted an "unduly restrictive" interpretation of the internet luring law and "misapprehended" the essential elements of the offence.
In 2003, 37-year-old Legare, posing as a 17-year-old, had two sexually explicit conversations with a 12-year-old girl in an internet chat room. The girl, who lived in Ontario, also gave Legare her home phone number. He called her twice at home and said he wanted to perform a sexual act on the girl.
She hung up and her father phoned police.
He was later charged with invitation to sexual touching and communicating via computer for the purpose of facilitating a sexual offence — although, according to an agreed statement of facts, Legare never discussed meeting the girl, nor did he ever intend to meet her.
In the first trial in 2006, Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Judge John Agrios acquitted Legare, saying that while his conduct was "morally reprehensible," it did not fall under the Criminal Code's internet luring provisions, which Parliament passed in 2002. There was no indication that Legare was luring the child, Agrios ruled.
But in 2008, a three-judge panel of Alberta's Court of Appeal ruled the luring law did not require an intent to create an opportunity for a crime to be committed, and it ordered a new trial.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the Alberta Court of Appeal's ruling. Fish held that the case centres on the interpretation of the term "facilitating."
"In this context, 'facilitating' includes helping to bring about and making easier or more probable — for example, by 'luring' or 'grooming' young persons to commit or participate in the prohibited conduct; by reducing their inhibitions; or by prurient discourse that exploits a young person's curiosity, immaturity or precocious sexuality."
The law criminalizes conduct that precedes the commission of sexual offences with minors or "even an attempt" to commit those offences, Fish wrote.
He said that according to the law, the offender does not have to meet or intend to meet the victim with the intention of committing an offence.
"This is in keeping with Parliament's objective to close the cyberspace door before the predator gets in to prey," he wrote.