Manitoba

Manitoba police officer on trial, accused of making naked photos of love interest available to others

A trial began Monday in Brandon for a police officer accused of distributing sexually explicit photos and video of a woman he was having an affair with. 

Officer charged in 2020 after woman in photos comes forward

A file photo shows the WhatsApp communications app on a smartphone. A police officer in Manitoba is on trial, accused of sharing images he received through the smartphone app with others. (Patrick Sison/The Associated Press)

A trial began Monday in Brandon for a police officer accused of distributing sexually explicit photos and video of a woman he was having an affair with. 

The Manitoba First Nations Police officer was charged last year with two counts of publication of an intimate image without consent. He is accused of making two photos and a video of a woman available to others without her consent. 

CBC News isn't identifying the officer or the woman due to a publication ban imposed on the case. 

On Monday, the judge-only trial at Manitoba provincial court heard the images and video in question stemmed from a romantic relationship the officer had with the female complainant in the first half of 2016.

The pair met through volunteer work and their friendship quickly progressed to a sexual relationship, which involved the exchange of suggestive and explicit photos and videos though WhatsApp, a messaging application. 

"I think we would just kind of push each other further," the woman told court.

"It was just a fun, exciting game at the time," she said. "We were selfish. It was harmless fun at the time."

The woman said she and the officer agreed to delete and destroy any photos or video they had of each other after they decided to end their relationship. 

'Blindsided' after photos surface

But two images and a 28-second video surfaced on another police officer's Hotmail account in 2017, according to Crown attorney Ashleigh Smith. Manitoba's Independent Investigation Unit, which investigates incidents involving police in the province, became involved in the investigation and obtained the images and video in 2019. 

Court was shown the images and video on Monday afternoon. A TV screen in the courtroom was angled so the gallery couldn't see what was on it, nor was the sound on. As it was shown, the officer sat facing the other direction. 

The woman, at times shaking and emotional, told court that she didn't give permission at any point for the images and video to be shared with others. 

"I was blindsided," the woman said. "I didn't know what to think." 

When cross-examined by defence lawyer Josh Weinstein, the woman disagreed with the notion that she once gave the man permission to show the video, or that she generally gave permission for images to be shared with his close friends. 

"I disagree," she said from the witness box, rarely looking in the direction of the man and his lawyer, instead turning toward the Crown attorney or the judge. 

Retired detective Jonathan Stevenson told the court the officer declined, through his civil lawyer, to participate in the Independent Investigation Unit's investigation. 

The other officer involved, who is with the Brandon Police Service, testified that he was aware the pair were exchanging explicit images and video. 

"Yes, the topic came up," he said, recalling a fundraiser he stopped in at hosted by the woman while on shift one night. 

In an unrelated matter, the Brandon police officer was charged with voyeurism, accused of surreptitiously recording images of someone for a sexual purpose.

The charge was later stayed. 

He believed she was aware that he had shown her photos and the video. 

Civil claim 

Court was also told the two are involved a civil lawsuit. The woman's lawyer sent the man's civil lawyer a letter demanding the images and $105,000. That case is still before the court. 

She said she had no part of constructing the letter and hasn't spoken with the man directly since they ended the relationship. 

"It was embarrassing," the woman said. "I still have a lot of guilt toward what I did. 

"It was horrible" 

The trial, being presided over by Judge Robert Heinrichs, is expected to hear Tuesday from the woman who first discovered the photos on her then-boyfriend's Hotmail account. 

It is expected to wrap up on Wednesday. 

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