Alberta judge stays child porn case after police mistakenly name youth charged

A stay of proceedings was granted on July 29

An Alberta judge has stayed charges in a child pornography case because police mistakenly released the name of a teen suspect.

The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams, or ALERT, published a news release last November announcing 13 arrests for child luring and similar offences.

Later that day, the agency learned one of the suspects it listed as being 18-years old was actually 17 at the time.

Media outlets were alerted and asked to remove identifying information of the teen.

But a provincial court decision last week says those details are still accessible online several months later.

A stay of proceedings was granted on July 29.

“It is virtually impossible to stuff the genie back into the bottle once information has been published on the internet,” Judge Patricia Kvill wrote in her decision.

“Careless acts by government agencies shake the integrity of the youth justice system.”

The teen was accused of pretending to work for a modelling agency and convincing the mother of a school mate to send him nude photos of her daughter.

He pleaded guilty in June to possessing child pornography and to agreeing or making arrangements with the girl’s mother, by telecommunication, to commit the offence.

The ALERT media release on Nov. 7, 2018, said the arrests by its internet child exploitation unit were part of an eight-month initiative targeting people who were allegedly trying to arrange sex with children.

ALERT is a provincial law enforcement agency made up of teams of municipal and RCMP officers combating organized and serious crime.

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, it is a crime to publish the names of accused people younger than 18, or anything that could identify them.

“The Youth Criminal Justice Act, at its heart, intends to not only hold young offenders responsible for their crimes, but also to ensure that these youth (are) afforded the opportunity to renounce crime and become good citizens,” Kvill wrote.

“That goal becomes more difficult when youth are stigmatized as criminals.”

Kvill writes that as a result of the accusations being published countrywide, the teen has become alienated from most of his extended family, been ostracized by friends and has had difficulties in school.

“He believes he is unable to obtain employment as a result of the publication of his name,” she wrote. “He fears that news of these charges will hinder his chances of university acceptance. He has become isolated. He has sought counselling but fears for his safety.”

The Crown concedes the teen’s Charter right to security of the person was breached. As a remedy, it proposed reducing a probation order to 12 to 18 months from 18 to 24 months. The defence wanted a stay of the charges.

Kvill said it’s important to forcefully denounce ALERT’s mistake and a stay is the only appropriate way to do so.

“Young offenders must follow the law,” she wrote. ”So too must agencies of government.”

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary

The Canadian Press

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