A sentence appeal of a horrific case that was heard in Revelstoke made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada, and a decision was handed down recently.
The case in question was related to the 2013 sentencing of a Revelstoke man who pleaded guilty to incest and creating child pornography.
He was sentenced to nine years in prison, but the judgement carried constitutional questions because the Crown prosecutor wanted to prohibit the man from using the Internet — a restriction that was only made possible by a new law passed by the Conservative government in 2012, after the crimes in question were committed. The law allows judges to hand down a total Internet ban on people guilty of sexual offences against minors. Notably, the government said the law could be enacted retrospectively.
It became a constitutional issue because the Canadian Charter of Rights says that criminal laws should not be enforced retrospectively, and should instead be based on the laws at the time the crimes were committed.
When sentencing was handed down in Revelstoke court in August 2013, the judge restricted the man from contact with children under the age of 16, however he left a decision on a total Internet ban to the higher courts. The sentencing made its way through the B.C. appeal courts until it was finally heard by the Supreme Court of Canada on Dec. 2, 2015. Their ruling was issued on July 21.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said imposing the law retroactively was called for in this case because the benefit of protecting children from sexual predators “outweighs the modest impact on fairness and the rule of law.”
The 7-2 majority decision was written by Justice Andromache Karakatsanis. In it, she noted the evolution of the Internet and how it increased the risk of crimes against children. She cited social media websites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat – none of which existed the last time the law was amended in 2002 – saying they “fundamentally altered the social context in which sexual crimes can occur.”
“These new online services have given young people — who are often early adopters of new technologies — unprecedented access to digital communities,” wrote Karakatsanis. “At the same time, sexual offenders have been given unprecedented access to potential victims and avenues to facilitate sexual offending.
“The rapidly evolving technological and social context surrounding the enactment of (the law) has created new and emerging risks that make the law’s salutary effects more concrete — while mitigating the adverse impact the law has on fairness and the rule of law,” she continued.
“Although any one of these factors may have been insufficient in isolation, taken together, they create a compelling case. The benefits of the law outweigh its deleterious effects.”