Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Child-porn charges laid against Halifax teens in Rehtaeh Parsons case

Two men have been charged in connection with the Rehtaeh Parsons case, four months after the Nova Scotia teenager's family had complained that she killed herself after she was gang-raped and a cellphone photo of the alleged assault was circulated among her school peers.

In a joint press conference Thursday evening, the RCMP and Halifax Police said that an 18-year-old male from Halifax is facing two counts of distribution of child pornography, and a second 18-year-old male is facing charges of making child pornography and distributing child pornography.

RCMP Chief Superintendent Roland Wells said that both men are being released on the promise to appear in court on Aug. 15. The names of the accused are not being released as they were young offenders at the time of the incident, he added.

Story continues below advertisement

"We hope that today's arrests help the entire community to heal. A young girl has died in what is a tragic set of circumstances," he said. "We all need to reflect on how we as a community can come together in Rehtaeh's memory and see what we can do to work together to support our youth."

Halifax Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais said there was insufficient evidence to support sexual assault charges in the case.

"The evidence before us did not support the laying of sexual assault charges in the initial investigation concluded in November 2012. After the investigation in April of this year, investigators again examined whether charges could be laid and determined the available evidence did not meet the threshold of sexual assault charges against the two individuals in this matter," he said.

For months, the case had divided residents of Cole Harbour and Eastern Passages, two neighbouring suburbs of Halifax. Rehtaeh's family and friends complained that her plight hadn't been taken seriously. Supporters of her alleged assailants, whose identities were known through the community, complained that they were unfairly vilified. At one point, posters defending her alleged assailants were nailed on utility poles in their neighbourhood.

Rehtaeh's family could not be immediately reached for comment after the announcement that charges had been laid. On a memorial web page dedicated to her daughter's memory, Rehataeh's mother, Leah, wrote earlier in the day:  "All I can say is that it's about time they were arrested and it's now their chance to tell `Their side of the story'".

"They complain that its all one sided go ahead and speak, we are all ears!"

Ms. Parsons was notified of the arrests about 10 minutes after they took place and was given the names of the suspects, she told CBC.

Story continues below advertisement

Speaking in Saint John where he was touring the Irving Oil refinery earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he hoped the arrests will provide some comfort to Rehtaeh's family.

"I just want to say how pleased we are to see that progress is being made," Mr. Harper said.

Coincidentally, the arrests came a day after the province implemented stricter cyberbullying legislation, which gives victims the ability to sue their tormentors.

The legislation stemmed in part from the public outrage sparked by Rehtaeh's case.

A 17-year-old girl from Cole Harbour, N.S., Rehtaeh died in hospital in April after a suicide attempt.

Her family says she was raped in November, 2011, when she was 15, by four boys during a party at a friend's home in the Halifax suburb of Eastern Passage. She was distressed because a cellphone photo of the assault was circulated and the authorities failed to stop the harassment and prosecute the boys, the family alleges.

Story continues below advertisement

Her relatives said they were initially told by police that detectives could not prove who had sent the photo and that the Crown didn't think they could clinch a prosecution.

However, a week after her death unleashed a nationwide uproar, police in Halifax say they had reopened their investigation because someone stepped forward and gave "new and credible information."

In a Facebook post Wednesday marking the four-month mark since her daughter's death, Ms. Parsons revealed that she had been raped in similar circumstances when she was 14 and that she had told her daughter about it and cautioned her about situations where there are more boys than girls.

"When Rehtaeh told me what happened to her that November 2011 night, I was immediately transcended right back to my own horror," she wrote.

She added: "Why me? why my daughter? Not that it should happen to anyone but Why?"

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Authors
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

News reporter

Daniel Bitonti is a Vancouver-based reporter with The Globe and Mail. Before joining the bureau, Daniel spent six months on the copy desk in the Globe’s Toronto newsroom after completing a journalism degree at Carleton University. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.