EDITOR'S NOTE: We’ve decided to publish the name of the victim in this story, despite a court-ordered ban. We believe it’s in the public interest in this unique case, given the widespread recognition of Rehtaeh Parsons’ name, and given the good that can come, and has already come, from free public debate over sexual consent and the other elements of her story.
Rehtaeh’s parents want her name printed, and Judge Jamie Campbell, who upheld the publication ban, wrote in his decision that “the ban serves no purpose,” though he had no choice but to uphold it. Waiving Rehtaeh’s privacy rights “would be a good thing, if it could be done just for this case, just this once,” the judge wrote.
It is difficult for readers to follow a news story when the name associated with it is omitted, and we want to inform Nova Scotians of the outcome of this legal case. We would like to reassure other crime victims that their own court-ordered privacy rights will be respected as always.
A second young man has entered a guilty plea in the Rehtaeh Parsons case.
A 19-year-old Eastern Passage man pleaded guilty Monday in Halifax youth court to one count of distributing child pornography.
He admitted sending two young women a photo that showed him having sex with Rehtaeh, then 15, from behind while she vomited out a window in November 2011. The photo was subsequently circulated on social media to numerous young people, many of whom attended Rehtaeh’s high school.
Rehtaeh died in April 2013 after she was removed from life-support following a suicide attempt. Her parents say months of bullying had destroyed her will to live. She was 17.
The plea came on what was supposed to be the opening day of the man’s trial on two charges of distribution. The other charge will be dropped, Crown attorney Alex Smith said Monday.
The young man will be sentenced by Judge Gregory Lenehan on Jan. 15, after a presentence report is prepared.
On Nov. 13, a 20-year-old Eastern Passage man was given a one-year conditional discharge after pleading guilty to making child pornography by taking the picture. The judge also ordered him to apologize to Rehtaeh’s family in writing and provide a DNA sample for a national databank.
The identities of both young men are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act because they were minors when the offences were committed.
Rehtaeh’s parents, Leah Parsons and Glen Canning, insist the photo was taken during an alleged sexual assault. They went public after their daughter’s death, and the story made international headlines.
Rehtaeh’s name has not been published in association with court proceedings since last spring, when a judge imposed a statutory publication ban in the case.
“I’m not surprised at the change of plea,” Canning told reporters outside the courthouse Monday.
“We felt the evidence was always pretty strong.
“It was a photograph and basically a confession made over social media. There would not be a way (for the accused) to take it to trial and win.”
Canning said that, like the sentencing of the other offender, he does not expect the 19-year-old to get jail time.
Both Canning and Parsons said they wished police had laid sexual assault and child pornography charges while their daughter was alive.
The two young men weren’t arrested until August 2013, almost four months after the girl died, and were only charged with child pornography offences.
“When you hear the details of the photo described … Rehtaeh was not in a position to give consent, not just to the photo, but to anything else going on,” Canning said.
“That’s why our family is so angry and upset by this and why we want to have answers to this. This should have been a charge of sexual assault. That’s exactly what it was. There’s no way anyone can describe that photo as anything other than sexual assault.
“They should have done it when she was still alive, and that actually stings and hurts.”
The photo took away the essence of who Rehtaeh was, her mother said.
“Once that photo appeared, she was never the same again,” said Parsons.
Smith was brought in from Ontario to prosecute the pair after local Crown attorneys advised police not to file charges of any kind.
The province ordered an independent review of the handling of the case, but that review is on hold while the child pornography charges are still before the courts.
“I think we will have a sense of justice here once we find out answers to the very obvious questions,” Canning said.
“Why didn’t this happen in the first place? Who made the decision not to go ahead with sexual assault (charges) and why did they make that decision?
“I’m convinced 100 per cent that there’s a system here that needs to be looked at, and it needs to be fixed. All we can do now is move ahead … and hopefully have something positive come out of our daughter’s death.
“It’s not going to help her, obviously, but there are a lot of other people out there with very similar stories. It’s just wrong that this is allowed to happen and continue to happen.”
The 19-year-old also faces adult charges of criminally harassing and threatening to kill Canning in August 2013. That trial is set for June in Dartmouth provincial court.