Police warn against 'vigilante actions' after charges in Rehtaeh Parsons case
Published Friday, August 9, 2013 12:27PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 9, 2013 4:23PM EDT
Police in Halifax are warning the public they will not tolerate any "vigilante actions" taken against the two suspects charged in connection to the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, the Nova Scotia teen who hanged herself after months of online bullying linked to an alleged sexual assault.
In a news statement issued on Thursday, police acknowledged that while people in the community may believe they know the identities of the two 18-year-old males facing child pornography charges, anyone who releases their names or other information that could identify them would be a "breach under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and that person could face charges."
Similarly, “police will not tolerate vigilante actions against the accused," the statement said.
Police have not released the name of the two suspects -- arrested in their Halifax homes on Thursday morning -- because they were minors at the time of the alleged offences.
At a news conference Thursday evening, police and RCMP said that one of the teens has been charged with two counts of distributing child pornography. The other 18-year-old was charged with making and distributing child pornography.
The pair has been scheduled to appear in youth court next Thursday.
Police said no sexual assault charges were laid as there was insufficient evidence.
Parsons, 17, was taken off life-support in April after she hanged herself in her Halifax home. Her family said she was the victim of months of cyberbullying after a photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted was circulated at her high school.
After the announcement of the arrests and charges, Parsons’ mother, Leah, expressed relief, saying she has been waiting for a "very long time for something to be done."
Police in Halifax are hoping Thursday's arrest will bring some closure for Parsons' friends and family, many of whom expressed outrage over the dangers of cyberbullying.
"I cannot imagine the impact Rehtaeh's death has had on her family and friends, nor do I expect that (Thursday's) charges will bring them all the answer they seek. It is our hope that this is a step forward in allowing our community to heal," said Halifax District RCMP Chief Supt. Roland Wells.
On Wednesday, Nova Scotia's Cyber-Safety Act came into effect; it was inspired by Parsons’ death.
Under the new laws, residents in the province can sue or seek a protection order from the courts if they or their child are the target of online bullying.
A lawsuit can also be launched, with parents being held responsible for damages if the perpetrator is a minor.
School officials must also investigate each case of alleged bullying that reported to them – even those that occur off school grounds.