Supreme Court of Canada orders new trial for alleged online sexual predator

Summary:Bartholomew Legare of Alberta had not met with his intended victim a 12 year old girl. In 2003, Mr. Legare aged 32 at the time of the incident, attempted via a chat session to lure his potential victim to meeting him, stating to her that he was 17.

Supreme Court of Canada

Supreme Court of Canada

Bartholomew Legare of Alberta had not met with his intended victim a 12 year old girl. In 2003, Mr. Legare aged 32 at the time of the incident, attempted via a chat session to lure his potential victim to meeting him, stating to her that he was 17. He didn't believe he had committed a crime since he never met her. At his trial in 2006 after being charged under section 172.1 of the Criminal Code, a Judge agreed with him that he had yet to commit a crime. The crown appealed.

Background to this case can be found on court.ca. Here's a excerpt;

In April of 2003, Legare was 32 and living in Edmonton, Alberta. Representing himself to be 17, Legare engaged in two online "chat" conversations with the 12 year old complainant. Their conversations were explicitly sexual in nature. Following the second conversation the complainant provided Legare with her phone number, who then called her twice. The telephone conversations ended when Legare made a sexually suggestive remark. Legare and the complainant neither met nor intended to meet, and no sexual activity ever took place between them. Legare was charged with one count of invitation to touch for a sexual purpose, contrary to s. 152 of the Criminal Code, and one count of facilitating an offence by means of a computer system, contrary to s. 172.1 of the Code. The Trial Judge acquitted the accused of both offences. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal in part, setting aside the acquittal pursuant to s. 172.1 and ordering a new trial. The accused now appeals that decision.

At issue is the proper scope and interpretation of s. 172.1.

172.1 (1) Every person commits an offence who, by means of a computer system within the meaning of subsection 342.1(2), communicates with;

(c) a person who is, or who the accused believes is, under the age of 14 years, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of an offence under section 281 with respect to that person.

The defence argued that some intention to commit the underlying offence must exist, and there must be some possibility of physical contact between the accused and the complaint. The Crown argued, however, that an intent to commit a secondary offence is not necessary so long as the communication is for the purpose of facilitating sexual exploitation and reduces barriers or inhibitions towards such sexual conduct. The Court of Appeal found the trial judge erred in adding a dimension of intention beyond "facilitation", and ordered a new trial to make findings on whether the accused possessed the requisite mens rea under the new definition of 172.1.

In a 7-0 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the lower court's 2006 outcome which acquitted him of the charges and has ordered a new trial. Section 172.1 was specifically implemented to deal with Internet based cyber-crimes.

The Supreme Court outcome validates the government's new law that gives hope to those that have been targeted. It's estimated that only 10% of victims of such cases are even known n Canada. Perhaps this decision will encourage more cyberspace induced victims to come forward.

Topics: Browser, Mobility, Telcos

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