Public pressure has persuaded Nova Scotia’s Justice Department to review the handling of a case of a girl allegedly sexually assaulted, then taunted about it, and who ultimately took her own life.
The change of heart was a sudden turnaround. Justice Minister Ross Landry held firm at first, saying he accepted the police investigation and the Crown’s position that it saw small chance of a conviction for sexual assault – or for child pornography, since a photo was circulated online afterward.
But Landry changed his position later Tuesday, saying his department would review the police and Crown’s handling of the case for the girl’s mother – who claimed the justice system failed her daughter. That came after an outcry over the tragedy.
Police and the Crown, in explaining the lack of charges, said the alleged assault leaned toward the ‘he said-she said’ category.
What many found difficult, on top of that, was that child pornography charges wouldn’t even be pursued. The girl was 15 at the time, and they could determine the source of the online photo.
That certainly suggests a lack of teeth in current laws.
Also disturbing is the continued harassment the victim underwent afterward, what her mother said ultimately led to her suicide.
Again, we enter this dark realm of cyberbullying, the vitriol that occurs online. If the Crown wasn’t confident about charges relating directly to this case before, a followup review likely won’t change that. But let’s at least seriously face that other insidious crime.
There’s plenty of general will to find solutions to tackle cyberbullying, but with such a foothold on the Internet, no one can agree how to proceed. Some urge caution, lest we “bully the bullies,” and say education and counselling is key.
That only accomplishes so much though. Like any other antisocial behaviour that causes injury or death, the only way to treat threats and bullying online is as a crime. Enough talk, entering this in the Criminal Code is long overdue.