US & Canada

Rehtaeh Parsons case: No jail over photo of 'assault'

Woman holds a picture of Rehtaeh Parsons in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 11 April 2013 Image copyright AP
Image caption A publication ban prevents Canadian media from referring to Rehtaeh Parsons by name

A young Canadian man who pleaded guilty to taking a photo of an alleged sexual assault has avoided jail time.

The 20-year-old was sentenced to a conditional discharge, including 12 months of seeing a probation officer.

Rehtaeh Parsons, 17, killed herself after photos of the incident were widely shared and months of cyber-bullying from her peers.

Canadian media cannot refer to Parsons or the man by name because of a court-ordered publication ban.

The unnamed man, who is not identified because he was underage at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to making child pornography.

Canadian publications cannot name victims of child pornography, but Rehtaeh Parsons' family have said they do not agree with the ban, saying her case had already made international headlines and prevented them telling her story.

On Thursday, Judge Gregory Lenehan told the man the act shown in the photo was "vile, it is degrading, it is dehumanising".

"You did in a few seconds set in motion a series of events that led to a great deal of shame, humiliation, anger, despair, anguish, loss, hurt and destruction."

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Media captionThe father of cyber-bully victim Rehtaeh Parsons speaks to the BBC about his grief a year after her death

But the judge said the man, who was 17 at the time, was not "as morally blameworthy" as an adult who would understand the consequences of the actions.

"This is not a court of retribution. It is a court that seeks to reform and rehabilitate the young person," he said, according to CBC.

In addition to 12 months of meeting with a youth probation officer, the 20-year-old must submit a DNA sample to a national registry and write a letter of apology to Rehtaeh Parsons' family.

In an impact statement before the sentence, her father, Glen Canning, said a "click of a camera" ruined her life, and the young man could have apologised to Rehtaeh but "did nothing when it would have mattered".

Afterwards, Mr Canning told CTV he was satisfied with the judge's sentence.

"I agree with the judge - I think he had an awful lot of very strong words," he said. "In a way, I feel good about it today even though it's been a hell of a journey."

Another young man is set to begin trial later in November for distribution of child pornography in the same case.

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