A Victoria-area teen who's facing trial for sexting naked photos of her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend also may have fallen afoul of the law of unintended consequences.
The 16-year-old Saanich girl faces charges of possession and distribution of child pornography and uttering threats after allegedly texting nude photos of another girl, CBC News reports.
But her lawyer considers the porn charges overkill and plans to mount a constitutional challenge if she's convicted.
Christopher Mackie told CBC News that Canada's child porn laws were never meant to apply to young people prosecuted under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. They were aimed at adults who exploit children, he argued.
"Originally, those provisions were created in order to protect children, so is it appropriate to use those provisions now to prosecute children?" Mackie said.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association agrees.
"It's obviously absurd," said policy director Michael Vonn. "The unbelievably heavy hand of criminal law cannot be used as an educational tool and a deterrent in this fashion."
But Saanich police Sgt. Steve Eassie defended the charges, saying distribution of the nude images of the girl's former rival was part of an act of bullying.
"This it appears this was part of harassment or threatening behaviour on the part of the accused," he told CBC News.
And a children's advocate echoed that view.
"We're really trying to raise awareness about really thinking about what you put online," said Stephanie Owen, who works with the Children of the Street Society.
The case is bound to resonate in the wake of cases like Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd.
Parsons, a Cole Harbour, N.S., 17-year-old committed suicide last April after images of her allegedly being sexually assaulted at age 15 at a drunken party were distributed around her school. The circulation of the photo triggered a wave of bullying and police dropped their investigation of the alleged rape, saying there was not enough evidence to lay charges.
Her suicide prompted an outpouring of anger and led the Nova Scotia government to pass a law giving victims of cyberbullying the right to sue their tormentors.
Meanwhile, the RCMP reopened the investigation into the assault and charged two teenage boys with making and distributing child pornography. CTV News reports they appeared in a Halifax courtroom on Friday and the case was adjourned until Nov. 14.
Amanda Todd's story became international news when the 16-year-old Coquitlam, B.C., girl killed herself after a wave of cyberbullying connected to a nude photo of her distributed on social media. Before her death, Todd posted a video on YouTube recounting years of torment and cyber-stalking after someone on a webcam chat got her to flash her breasts at age 12. The photo was later posted on Facebook, which began her ordeal.
No one has been charged in connection with posting the explicit photo of Todd.
Someone has been held to account in the case of another Vancouver-area teen whose sexual assault in 2010 was recorded and distributed on social media.
Twenty-one-year-old Dennis Warrington was sentenced to 18 months probation and 120 hours of community service for publishing child pornography after posting photos on Facebook of a girl allegedly enduring a gang rape at a rave in Pitt Meadows, east of Vancouver, The Canadian Press reported last March.
The girl, 15 at the time, said she had one drink and believes she was drugged. She said she went through hell when the photos were posted but found the strength to weather the ordeal.
Warrington, then 18, apologized for what he did, saying he took down the pictures 24 hours later, but the damage was done. Charges were stayed against one young man accused of assaulting the girl.
In the Victoria case, the judge rejected Mackie's application to make his argument before the trial that the child-porn charge is unconstitutional based on age discrimination. He set a trial date for next week and, depending on the outcome, would hear the constitutional argument after that.
Mackie said that means the girl will carry the label of child pornographer if she's found guilty.
The mother of the accused said her daughter is not a pornographer and the incident should have been dealt with outside the legal system through counselling and education. Since the charges were laid earlier this year, she's been singled out and forced to chance schools.
"She's a shell of the child she was," the mother told the Victoria Times Colonist.