Saskatchewan

'Shame on you': North Battleford man pleads guilty to posting revenge porn photos of 4 women

Daylan Heidel, 28, pleaded guilty in provincial court Friday to charges of distributing intimate images of four women without their consent. One image was viewed online 1.5 million times. Heidel received an 18-month jail sentence and probation.

Daylan Heidel, 28, receives 18 months for distributing intimate images without women's consent

'Revenge porn' is the act of maliciously distributing intimate images of an ex-partner without their consent. (Igor Stevanovic/Shutterstock)

A North Battleford, Sask., man has pleaded guilty to distributing intimate images of four different women on an internet porn site.

The offence is often referred to as "revenge porn."

Daylan Heidel, 28, who has been in custody since July, appeared in Saskatchewan provincial court Friday to enter the guilty plea and face sentencing.

The judge accepted a joint submission from the Crown and defence and sentenced Heidel to 18 months in jail and two years probation. With time already served, Heidel will spend another 13 months behind bars.

Daylan Heidel, 28, received an 18-month jail sentence. (Facebook)

The court heard that Heidel received intimate images from women that he was in a relationship with via text or messaging apps, such as Snapchat. Then, after a break up, he would post those images on the porn site, xHamster, without their consent. The images eventually spread to other online sites, including Pornhub.

Some of the images included captions like "karma is a bitch."

One image was viewed 1.5 million times. Others were seen by thousands. Heidel also, at times, included the women's full names and other personal information. One of the victims received Facebook requests from strangers who saw the images online.

In 2015, the federal government criminalized the non-consensual sharing of intimate photos by making amendments to the Criminal Code.

The Criminal Code defines an intimate image as being one in which the subject is nude, partially nude, or engaged in explicit sexual activity, made under circumstances that suggested "a reasonable expectation of privacy."

CBC News won't identify the victims.

One woman discovered nude images of herself on xHamster then noticed images of three other women she knew. 

Crown prosecutor Lana Morelli said the victims in this case "did nothing wrong except trust the wrong person." (Matthew Garand/CBC)

One of the victims confronted Heidel and he told her that the image had been leaked because his Instagram account had been hacked, but the victim said the image was shared via text not Instagram. Police found no signs of hacking on Heidel's phone.

Nightmares

Victims and their families presented victim impact statements.

One woman choked up as she described how her mind would race and she would constantly search her name on Google to find more images. Strangers tried to blackmail her, she said.

"There were a lot of sleepless nights," the woman told the courtroom.

"Today, I walk out of here with a heavy weight lifted off my shoulders," she said through tears.

Another woman said she initially "blamed herself for trusting that scumbag" and that she has nightmares about losing her job or her son getting bullied because of the images.

The family member of one victim called Heidel "a predator."

"Shame on you," the person said to Heidel in the courtroom.

'I've ruined a lot of people's lives'

Heidel's defence lawyer, Ron Piché, said alcohol was a factor in these crimes.

"It was a combination of very, very poor judgment while he was under the influence of alcohol, and that's not a defence and that's not an excuse," Piché said outside the courthouse. "But if he starts addressing that part of his life, I think good things will flow."

Piché didn't gloss over the impact on the women or the lasting impact of the images online.

"It could last forever. And these women, their grandchildren could even come upon [the images]," Piché​​​​​​​ said.

Heidel stood up and told the court: "I take full responsibility for my actions. By no means am I proud of what happened."

Sobbing, he said that he had ruined a lot of people's lives.

"I just really want them to know that I am sorry and I'm going to do everything in my power to sober up and make sure this never happens again," Heidel said.

Legal scholars Alexa Dodge (left) and Moira Aikenhead (right) have researched the court's response to the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. (Saint Mary's University, University of British Columbia)

Heidel, who also pleaded guilty to a firearms offence unrelated to revenge porn, made his first court appearance in June and was released on bail. Heidel distributed another image while on bail, and was taken back into custody. He's been held in remand for 100 days.

As Judge Brent Klause delivered the sentence, he said Heidel had inflicted real harm and that some images would likely remain on the internet. Heidel is restricted from owning a computer or electronic device that may connect to the internet, including a smartphone, during his sentence, and cannot contact his victims.

Crown prosecutor Lana Morelli said 18 months isn't enough for this kind of crime, but calls it "a good start."

"As the judge said, these women did nothing wrong except to trust the wrong person," Morelli told CBC News.

Morelli said she's seen an increase in these kinds of charges in Saskatchewan in the past couple months and the acts are "becoming more and more serious."

An 'act of violence'

Criminology assistant professor Alexa Dodge studied 49 cases of non-consensual distribution of intimate images from both before and after Canada enacted its new law. Dodge says judges often make the distinction between the reckless sharing of images by youth and the malicious intent of someone who distributes images as a form of revenge or harassment.

"A period of incarceration is becoming quite normal in these adult cases," Dodge said. 

Dodge found 90 days incarceration was standard for a perpetrator who shared an intimate image "in the heat of the moment" after a breakup. She says longer periods of incarceration are generally handed down when the crime is part of a pattern of behaviour or an act of domestic abuse.

Dodge says judges weigh both the distribution form, such as via text message or posted online, and the distribution reach. She concluded judges find the digital footprint of internet images adds to the seriousness of the crime. However, she notes that distributing an image to a few people in the victim's inner circle can be just as damaging and hurtful as posting it on a website to a wider audience of strangers.

Moira Aikenhead, a PhD candidate at the UBC's Peter A. Allard Law School, argues that sharing an image is more than a privacy invasion. In many cases, she says, it's an "act of violence."

"The ease with which images can be shared online has sort of opened up this form of abuse for people who might not be physically violent with their partners but it's given them a way to sort of exert similar power and control over [their partners]," Aikenhead said. 

Several provinces — including Saskatchewan — have also passed laws that make it easier for victims to take civil action and sue perpetrators for compensation.

With files from Morgan Modjeski

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