Internet luring now includes non-sexual chats: SCC
Published Thursday, December 3, 2009 5:14PM EST
A Supreme Court of Canada ruling has expanded the definition of Internet luring to include anyone having an inappropriate conversation with a child -- even if the chats aren't sexual in nature and the accused never intended to meet the alleged victim.
Justice Morris Fish, writing for the Supreme Court, said physical contact is not necessary for Internet luring because some seemingly innocent chats open the door towards a child being victimized.
"Those who use their computers to lure children for sexual purposes often groom them online by first gaining their trust through conversations about their home life, their personal interests or other innocuous topics," he said.
He said the law "makes it a crime to communicate by computer with underage children or adolescents for the purpose of facilitating the commission of the offences."
But he said the word "facilitating" could be interpreted to mean anything that would make it easier or more probable for a young person to be taken advantage of.
This includes anything that would reduce their inhibitions or exploits a child's "curiosity, immaturity or precocious sexuality."
Fish said the conversations don't need to be sexually explicit to fit these criteria.
He said the new Internet luring law "criminalizes conduct that precedes the commission of the sexual offences."
"This is in keeping with Parliament's objective to close the cyberspace door before the predator gets in to prey."
The decision was part of an Alberta man's case who admitted to online sexual chats with a 12-year-old girl in 2003.
At a 2006 trial on two sexual luring counts, the judge called Craig Bartholomew Legare's actions "despicable and repugnant," but said that since he had no intention of ever meeting the child, there was no crime. Legare was acquitted.
The Supreme Court said the judge from the first trial applied the law too constrictively, leading to the acquittal. Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered Legare to face a new trial under the new criteria.
The Alberta Court of Appeal had previously overturned Legare's acquittal. The Supreme Court, in its 7-0 ruling, agreed with the appeal judges.
Legare admitted to posing as a 17-year-old in his chats with the girl. He was 32 at the time. She claimed to be 13, but was actually 12, according to court documents.
Legare admitted to the sexual chats and to phoning the girl at home. However, he said he had no intention of meeting her and no sexual activity happened.
Mark Hecht, of Beyond Borders, an organization that lobbies against child exploitation said the Supreme Court decision will protect more children.
"There's been a very clear message that in fact this is something that is an offence, and as a result, I would think that there will now be more arrests and prosecutions of adults committing these kind of crimes," he told CTV News Channel.
"If you're an adult and if you're having conversations with a child on the Internet, be warned because even if your conversations aren't sexual and even if your conversations are not for the purpose of meeting a child and committing an offence against a child, what you're doing is potentially a crime," he said.
With files from The Canadian Press