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Extortion and Sextortion

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Frequently Asked Questions

Sextortion is a form of blackmail. For instance, if someone threatens to share a sexual picture or video of you online unless you pay them or provide more explicit material, this behaviour constitutes sextortion. Minors across the nation have been victims of sextortion, an internet-based crime. Although sextortion typically occurs online, its impacts extend beyond the virtual world, affecting real lives. The consequences can be severe, including self-harm or even suicide in certain cases.

The government of Canada takes these crimes seriously, particularly since they involve minors and are of a sexual nature. If you have been accused of sextortion, it is highly advisable to consult a skilled lawyer who can help you navigate this complex situation and work towards a favourable legal outcome. The first step is to learn to spot and identify sextortion. Some techniques that perpatrators of sextortion use are to create realistic accounts and girls of a similar age to trick and manipulate young people into sharing sexual images or videos.

In 2023, the Firm represented an individual who was the victim of harassment, extortion, and revenge porn threats in R. v. B.D. [2023]. The accused came to the Firm for assistance after a past sexual partner threatened to release intimate images and message conversations to the public if they were not paid a sum of money. After conducting an investigation, the Firm discovered that the extortionist had arranged to meet and engage in sexual activity with the client in an attempt to extort him later. The client had somewhat of a public persona and was involved in another relationship at the time, which the extortionist used in their favour. The matter was secretly resolved without any intimate material being released, or any money being paid.

How does Sextortion Happen?

It usually starts with a normal conversation between two people. As the bond grows, one person might suggest for the other person to share sexual photographs of themselves. Another example could be that you are performing sexual acts on FaceTime with the other person, but it is being recorded without your knowledge.

In that scenario, this could escalate to a situation where one person then demands that the other party for funds or for more revealing and explicit photos. If they refuse, they are told the images or video already exchanged will be shared with the victim’s close social circle, such as their friends, family, and employers. This creates an embarrassing and uncomfortable situation for the victim of sextortion, which could even cause them emotional anguish and agony.

The perpetrator might then demands payment from the victim, more photographs, or both, or else they will reveal the sexual contents. These people may employ a variety of strategies to intimidate the victim.Following the violence, threats, or other forms of coercion, victims may be made to feel isolated or humiliated. As a result, the law takes this crime quite seriously and can even lead to jail time.

Stages of the Criminal Justice System

Donich Law - Assault Punishments

What is an Intimate Image?

Any picture, movie, or video in which a person is nude or reveals their private parts, such as their genitalia or breasts, is considered an intimate image. There are also pictures of them having sexual intercourse in it. Furthermore, the photo or video must have been shot in a situation where the subject had a legitimate expectation of privacy, which means they were unaware that it would be shared with others.

What Penalties Might I Face for Sextortion?

The maximum punishment for sextortion if the Crown prosecutes it as an indictable offence is five years in prison; lesser punishments apply if the case is pursued as a summary conviction. When facing this charge, it is always very recommended to consult with a skilled criminal defence lawyer.

How to Defend Assault Charges

What defences do I have for Sharing an Intimate Photo?

The circumstances always determine the defence against any criminal charge. A person cannot be found guilty of this offence “if the conduct that forms the subject-matter of the charge serves the public good and does not extend beyond what serves the public good,” according to Section 162.3 of the Code, which offers one type of defence. Given the paucity of case law in this field, mounting that defence is challenging.

When looking into someone who is accused of a crime, police have sometimes been known to breach Charter rights. Everyone in Canada is guaranteed a protection against unjustified search and seizure by Section 8 of the Charter. A lawyer could possibly request that the Court exclude any evidence the police collected while engaging in that unlawful behaviour if that kind of breach has taken place.

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Recent Cases

R. v. A. C. (2022 BCSC 1810)

This case was viral on the Internet a number of years ago and revolves around the defendant’s extensive online extortion of Amanda Todd, a minor, over a number of years. A. C.’s crimes include extortion, child pornography, child luring, and criminal harassment. Over the span of a couple of years, A. C. used 22 different online aliases to manipulate and exploit Amanda, who was only 12 when the harassment started. A. C. primary method involved threatening to distribute intimate images of Amanda unless she complied with his demands for more explicit content.

A. C.’s extortion tactics included sending hundreds messages to the victim, using threats of exposure to coerce her. When Amanda refused to comply, A. C. followed through on his threats, distributing child pornography depicting her to members of her community, including friends, family, and school staff. This caused Amanda significant distress and contributed to her eventual suicide at the age of 15.

A. C.’s actions had a profound impact on Amanda and her family. Her parents described the immense emotional distress that Amanda endured. The distribution of intimate images and continuous harassment negatively impacted Amanda’s life, causing her to switch schools and suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

The Crown sought a severe sentence, emphasizing the need for deterrence and denunciation due to the sexual nature of this offence and the fact that the victim was a minor.

R v. HPM, 2022 ABQB 584

In this case, HPM was found guilty on charges of assault, making threats, two acts of extortion, sex assault, unlawful confinement, and criminal harassment. His activities over a number of years against his former intimate partner, NB, are the source of these convictions.

Even after their relationship ended in December 2011, HPM persisted in intimidating and controlling NB. When he discovered NB with someone else, he physically attacked her and coerced her to have sex with him by taking away her personal items. Next, HPM made up a story about a gang threatening their life. He used this made-up threat to manipulate NB and get access to her finances and to receive sexual services from her.

Between January 2012 and December 2016, HPM took advantage of NB by persuading her that there was a gang danger and by requesting money, sex, and domestic services. He consistently used psychological pressure to her, causing her to pay him between $115,000 and $130,000 and have more than 100 non-consensual sex encounters.

HPM’s actions had a profound and damaging impact on NB’s life. She was trapped in a state of fear, unable to pursue her career or personal goals, and suffered significant financial and emotional distress. The court emphasized the gravity of HPM’s offences, noting the prolonged and deliberate nature of his actions, which constituted severe physical and psychological abuse.

NB’s life was significantly and negatively impacted by HPM’s acts. She had severe financial and emotional distress, was unable to pursue her professional or personal ambitions, and was stuck in a condition of anxiety. The court underlined how serious HPM’s violations were, pointing out that his acts were purposeful and sustained, amounting to serious bodily and psychological abuse.

Ultimately, the court imposed a substantial sentence, reflecting the seriousness of HPM’s offences and the significant harm inflicted on NB. The case underscores the severe impact of sextortion and the importance of robust legal measures to protect victims and hold offenders accountable.

In the end, the court handed down a heavy sentence that was appropriate given the gravity of HPM’s actions and the considerable suffering that NB had suffered. The case serves as a stark reminder of the harmful effects of sextortion and the necessity of strong legal safeguards to protect victims and prosecute criminals.

R. v. M. W., 2023 ONCJ 317

M. W. was sentenced after being found guilty of making available intimate images without consent, mischief by altering computer passwords, and criminal harassment. The case stems from Weedon’s actions on September 25, 2021, when he accessed his ex-girlfriend Ms. N.P.’s Snapchat account, changed her passwords, and posted her nude images and videos. Concurrently, he sent her harassing messages, including disparaging and threatening language.

The Court found that Ms. P. suffered severe emotional and psychological suffering as a result of Weedon’s acts. She suffered from sadness, worry, and terror; she also had to deal with financial and professional setbacks. Ms. P. was publicly humiliated after her friends and professional contacts saw the photos. The victim was severely impacted by Weedon’s actions, the court noted, notwithstanding his persistent denial and lack of regret.

M. W., who has no criminal history, admitted to using drugs heavily while he was seeing Ms. P. The court recognized his strong work history, stable family, and educational background. It was seen, nevertheless, that he was indifferent to the harm done and would not take responsibility.

The defence suggested a sentence of nine to twelve months, while the Crown requested a two-year term plus probation. The Court emphasized the need for denunciation and deterrent in light of the seriousness of the acts, especially in light of the current environment in which it is simple for private photos to be shared online. The judge determined that, considering the seriousness of Weedon’s acts and their effect on Ms. P., only a jail sentence would be suitable.

M. W. received a 12-month prison term for disclosing private photos, along with additional six-month terms for criminal harassment and mischief. In addition, he received a three-year probationary period with stringent requirements, such as going to counselling, keeping his job, and not communicating with Ms. P. He was also forbidden from using the internet while detained and from having any personal photos of Ms. P. A DNA sample, a 10-year ban on owning firearms, and a two-year victim surcharge were among the additional ancillary requirements.

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About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.