Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia teens accused of sharing intimate images have complex case put over

The Crown attorney prosecuting six Bridgewater-area boys accused of sharing intimate images of girls says the justice system and law enforcement are playing "a bit of catch up" to emerging issues involving young people and online privacy.

'We've all kind of failed in educating our young people of the consequences of their behaviours'

The case involving six Bridgewater-area teens is one of the first tests, involving youth, of Canada's new law to combat illegal sharing of images. (Summer Skyes photography/Flickr)

The Crown attorney prosecuting six Bridgewater-area boys accused of sharing intimate images of girls says the justice system and law enforcement are playing "a bit of catch up" to emerging issues involving young people and online privacy.

The case against the two 18 year olds and four 15 year olds was in Bridgewater youth court Wednesday, but has been put over until Oct. 19. Their identities are banned from publication.

"I don't believe this conduct, in and of itself, is new," Crown attorney Peter Dostal said outside the courtroom. "However, I think that it's only in recent years that we've begun catching up on investigative techniques and tools."

The teens are charged with distributing intimate images without consent, and possession and distribution of child pornography, following a yearlong investigation. 

The case is one of the first tests, involving youth, of Canada's new law to combat illegal sharing of images. Police have said pictures of 20 teenage girls were circulated after allegedly being shared without consent in a Dropbox account.

6 accused with 6 lawyers makes for a complex case

Defence attorney Alan Ferrier said the defence has a "number of issues with the Crown, procedurally" in terms of disclosure of evidence.

Defence attorney Alan Ferrier is one of six defence attorneys representing the accused. (CBC)

Both sides need more time to review the electronic disclosure, mostly evidence from electronic devices. Ferrier said everyone involved wants to get the case moving along quickly.

"So there's already a delay issue that is of concern to everybody because we're dealing with young people and their concepts of time are completely different than adults — and we all recognize it," he said.

Dostal, who works in the office of special prosecutions, acknowledged that six accused and six defence lawyers creates complexity in the case.

He also commended all who came forward to speak about the issue. 

"I think most concerning for us at this stage is the extent of the distribution that had been going on and the risks that arise from that mass distribution … It could have very dire impact on many, many people," he said.

We've 'failed as a society'

Ferrier said the sharing of intimate images is a "societal" and "educational problem."

"We've kind of failed as a society … We've all kind of failed in educating our young people of the consequences of their behaviours," he said.

Peter Dostal is one of the Crown attorneys with the office of special prosecutions. His office handles complex and sensitive cases including child exploitation cases. (CBC)

The investigation began after the principal of Bridgewater Junior Senior High School contacted police in May 2015. Several students were suspended at the time over the images.

A new section of the Criminal Code allows prosecutions involving a wider range of intimate images, such as breasts, than traditional child pornography laws.

That law was brought in in the aftermath of the death of Rehtaeh Parsons and other high-profile cases.

Parsons, 17, attempted suicide and was taken off life support after a digital photo of what her family says was a sexual assault was circulated among students at her school in Cole Harbour, N.S.

now