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Lawyers near agreement in Nova Scotia intimate images case involving young girls

Five of the six entered guilty pleas last month, while the sixth pleaded guilty last Wednesday.
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BRIDGEWATER — Lawyers for six young men who admitted distributing intimate images of underage girls say they have almost reached agreement with prosecutors about the basic facts in the case.

The six were charged in July 2016 after police in Bridgewater wrapped up a year-long investigation by alleging the high school students had distributed intimate images of at least 20 girls.

Five of the six entered guilty pleas last month, while the sixth pleaded guilty last Wednesday.

In Bridgewater provincial court Wednesday, Crown attorney Peter Dostal said an agreed statement of facts — to be used at the young men's July 31 sentencing — is nearly finalized.

"I haven't had confirmation from everyone on amendments just yet," he told Judge Paul Scovil.

The case has been adjourned until May 9, when the agreed statement of facts is expected.

At the time the charges were laid, four of the accused — all students at Bridgewater High School — were 15 years old, and the other two were 18.

However, all were under 18 when the offences were committed, and their identities are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Dostal has said the boys conspired to trade the images among themselves.

The majority of the victims were also high school students, Bridgewater police said at the time.

The case is one of the first in Canada involving legislation introduced in late 2013 after the death of Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons, which captured national attention amid a heated public debate over cyberbullying.

The 17-year-old attempted suicide and was taken off life-support after a digital photo — of what her family says was a sexual assault — was circulated among students at her school in Cole Harbour.

The intimate images bill became law in March 2015.

The six youths were also charged with possessing and distributing child pornography, but Dostal confirmed last month that those charges are expected to be dismissed when they are sentenced.

The pornography charges weren't needed because the intimate image charges best fit the allegations, he said at the time.

After complaints came in from Bridgewater school officials in 2015, investigators seized a number of electronic devices — mainly cellphones — and handed them to the RCMP's technological crime unit for analysis.

Court documents released in December confirmed police had uncovered up to 75 intimate images of teenage girls placed in two online Dropbox accounts. At least one photo was taken without a girl's knowledge while she was changing.

The documents said one of the boys provided a statement to Bridgewater police describing how the group functioned, saying, "the girls sent the photos willingly but did not know they were being shared.''

According to the allegations in a police application, the sharing went on between Dec. 1, 2014, and May 12, 2015.

Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press



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