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Tougher Sentences for Internet Lurers

November 21, 2019

Court holds Internet-based dangers to children justify stricter sentencing

In R. v. Alcantara, the accused had pleaded guilty to the offence of internet luring under s. 172.1 of the Criminal Code, arising from a sting operation in which he interacted in a sexual manner with “Brayden,” an undercover officer who was playing the part of a 14-year old boy. “Brayden” had responded to an ad the accused placed on a site called “Doublelist!”, in which the accused sought sexual activity with a person emphasized as “young.” After short conversations with sexual content, the accused arranged a discreet “meeting” with “Brayden” and was apprehended thereafter.

The sentencing judge, Rolston J. of the Manitoba Provincial Court, took account of Parliament’s clear prioritization of combatting child sexual exploitation and its “growing concern for offences involving internet use,” which was reflected in turn by the creation of minimum sentences for deterrence purposes. The court remarked:

[6]            As a general observation, it is worth noting that the use of social media on the internet has virtually exploded since the time that the Ontario court expressed the noted concerns in D.D. in 2002. In 2019, virtually everyone carries a phone that is capable of accessing the vast number of internet applications that cater to connecting people to one another in some form or another. Often, the children as opposed to the adults, are the experts in the use of these devices. Despite often being experts in internet navigation, children remain naïve and vulnerable to influence and predatory behaviour. Therefore, the words of Justice Moldaver (as he then was) in D.D. add perspective to his words written more recently on behalf of the Supreme Court in R. v. Morrison, [2019] S.C.J. No. 15 at paragraph 153:

Child Luring is a serious offence that targets one of the most vulnerable groups within Canadian society—our children.  It requires a high level of mens rea and involves a high degree of moral blameworthiness.

The reality is that today’s technology is moving at light speed. The potential for damage to our “valued and vulnerable assets” is real. The combination of these facts logically calls for a focus on the principles of deterrence and denunciation in sentencing those who use the internet as a tool to lure and victimize our youth. These sentiments have been echoed time and time again in courts across the country (see, for example: Rv. Legare2009 SCC 56 (CanLII)Rv. Alicandro2009 ONCA 133 (CanLII)R. vParadee2013 ABCA 41 (CanLII)RvJepson, [2004] O.J. 5521, RvHarris2017 ONSC 940 (CanLII), and RvGalatas, Unreported MBQB, May 1, 2019). The concern of Parliament to ensure that the principles of deterrence, denunciation and protection of the public are at the forefront, is reflected in the increased sentences imposed by law.

Here, the defendant had challenged the constitutionality of the 1-year mandatory minimum sentence attached to the offence, but the court found that a sentence of at least one year would be appropriate in the circumstances and thus it did not need to consider the challenge. The defendant was sentenced to one year in jail and one year of probation, along with various conditions restricting his internet use, including a ban on the use of social media.

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