Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Defence Wants Crown in Rehtaeh Parsons Case to Testify on Sexting Policy

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Defence Wants Crown in Rehtaeh Parsons Case to Testify on Sexting Policy

Article excerpt

Effort to have Crown testify in Parsons case


HALIFAX - Defence lawyers for two teens accused of child pornography in the Rehtaeh Parsons case said Wednesday they want a senior Crown prosecutor to explain why, days after her death, Nova Scotia's Public Prosecution Service changed a policy allowing it to lay charges in offences involving sexting.

But the Public Prosecution Service said there was in fact no policy on sexting -- the sending of sexually explicit images and words via text messages -- before the 17-year-old girl died last April.

Defence lawyer Ian Hutchinson has filed a subpoena to have Crown prosecutor Craig Botterill testify, and the application is supported by the other defence lawyer in the case, Brian Church.

A lawyer for Nova Scotia's attorney general has filed an application to quash the subpoena, saying it would breach client-solicitor privilege.

That application contains an email from Hutchinson that lays out the defence's position. In the email, Hutchinson says if the prosecution service's policy hadn't changed a few days after Parsons' death, child pornography charges wouldn't have been laid against the two teens.

"It is understood that the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service administrative policy and procedure relating to 'sexting' offences which were in place during the initial police investigation are different from the current policy," Hutchinson says in the email to the Crown.

"Had the 2011/12 policy been followed I understand the Crown would have withdrawn both charges against my client."

Hutchinson said Wednesday that the prosecution service's policy in 2011-12 was that if a youth took a sexual picture of a youth of a similar age, charges wouldn't proceed.

But Chris Hansen, a spokeswoman for the Public Prosecution Service, said there was no policy on sexting prior to Parsons' death.

"The sexting policy was the first such policy we ever had," she said in a phone interview.

"There was nothing before that. The Parsons case identified a gap we had in our policy manual and we filled that gap."

In provincial court, Hutchinson said a senior Crown attorney can be compelled to testify when there is a possibility of misconduct by the Crown. …

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