Harsh penalties are given for child luring

Harsh penalties are given for child luring

By Matthew Deshaye

Child luring occurs when an adult communicates with someone who they believe to be under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity or to commit an abduction. This communication is done through email, messaging apps or web-based chat program.

Section 172.1 (1) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence to communicate with those under 18 for the purpose of sexual exploitation, incest, child pornography, parent/guardian procuring, prohibited sexual activity, human trafficking and prostitution.

If the child is under 16, it is illegal to communicate with them for the purpose of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, bestiality, exposure, sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, aggravated sexual assault and child abduction

If the youth is under the age of 14, this section also includes the crime of abduction under age 14.

Talking to someone underage does not alone constitute child luring. Any criminal online communication must be for the purpose of committing one of the above-noted offences.

Penalties for child luring

A conviction on the charge of child luring can bring a maximum 14-year prison sentence if the charge is treated as an indictable offence. Charges handled as summary convictions carry a maximum two-year jail term.

Those charged with child luring will likely be denied bail as they await trial. They will have their names reported in the media unless there is a ban on publication for some reason. The public shaming this publicity brings may be accompanied by estrangement from family and friends and limited employment possibilities.

Upon conviction, offenders will have their biometric information included in sexual offender databases. They could be banned from playgrounds or other areas frequented by children and they could be denied entry into the United States.

Defences against child luring charges

With any sexual offence involving children, the Code states that it is not a defence for the accused to claim they believed the person they contacted was really an adult unless reasonable steps were taken to ascertain the age of the person presenting themselves as a child. A reasonable step could include asking to see government identification.

It is also not a defence to say that an online platform’s policy stipulated that only adults could use it.

The Crown must prove that the accused was communicating with the minor with the intention of committing a sexual offence. Evidence would include statements made during the online conversation that are sexual or allude to sexual intent. A criminal lawyer can examine these statements and evaluate whether they would likely support a conviction. If not, the lawyer could argue the communication was not for sexual reasons.

The Crown must show the accused sent the messages. Reasonable doubt can sometimes be raised that someone else may have been responsible for the communication, especially if the messages were sent from publicly available computers in a café or library.

Nearly all online communication can be tracked, but that can only be done if the internet service provider (ISP) co-operates. Some ISPs based in foreign countries do not recognize Canadian law and therefore will not co-operate with Canadian authorities. In those cases, investigators will have more difficulty proving who sent the messages to the youth.

Child luring is a common crime

According to a report from Statistics Canada, online luring accounts for most police-reported online sexual offences against children and youth in Canada. Between 2018 and 2022, StatsCan states that the Canadian Centre for Child Protection noted an 815 per cent increase in reports of online luring through Cybertip.ca, Canada’s national tipline. Police-reported data show a 53 per cent increase in luring incidents during the same period.

Between 2014 and 2022, the report notes there were 11,971 police-reported incidents of online luring. Most victims (82 per cent) were youth (aged 12 to 17 years) and, of these, 84 per cent were girls. The median age for victims of luring was 13.

Due to the anonymity provided by the Internet, children and youths are commonly targeted by online lurers, StatsCan states, adding, “When looking specifically at luring incidents, child victims were considerably more likely than youth victims to be victimized by a stranger.”

The report adds that many child luring offenders do not meet their victims offline and, in these situations, the sexual offence is perpetrated entirely online.

Provincial convictions for luring

Three Alberta court cases show how seriously the courts treat the charge of online luring. They also demonstrate why those accused of this crime should see legal counsel immediately.

  • A 29-year-old man from Whitecourt, Alta., was imprisoned for seven years after pleading guilty to using social media to lure girls into sexual encounters.

    A 2023 news report notes that he was 26 when he first contacted a 14-year-old on Snapchat, which led to three meetings at recreation centres in Edmonton and Fort Saskatchewan. At the third meeting, he directed her to perform oral sex on him.

    According to the agreed statement of facts, an RCMP forensic technician examined the man’s phone and found an array of child pornography from girls he had contacted on Snapchat, a messaging app and through Instagram.

    The man was ordered to provide a sample of his DNA to a national database. He will also appear on a national sex offenders registry for 20 years. He is also under a court order not to be in a position of trust over anyone under 16 years old for the next 20 years.

  • A Calgary man’s seven-year sentence for child luring and other crimes was upheld by the Alberta Court of appeal in 2024.

    According to a news report, the man was convicted of six offences including two of child luring and one of making child pornography. His lawyer unsuccessfully appealed, arguing a five-year sentence was more appropriate.

    Among the mitigating factors considered by the lower court was the fact that one victim turned to self-harming behaviour during the time of the crimes.

    The story notes that the man used social media accounts to pose as a girl between 12 and 15 to solicit images from children that he knew were between the ages of 11 and 16.

  • In 2023 an Edmonton man was sentenced to 18 years in prison in one of the largest child porn and luring cases in Canadian history.

    According to a news report, the man pretended to be a teenage girl and convinced 92 boys to send him sexually explicit photos.

    To build trust with the victims, the story states, he sent them images of his teen stepdaughter in various states of undress using a messaging platform and Instagram.

    “Almost one-third of the children identified from the images were too traumatized or ashamed to speak to investigators,” the report states, which highlights the “near impunity and anonymity” that comes with child luring.

Contact us for assistance

Having quality legal representation can make all the difference in the success of your defence. The lawyers at Dunn & Associates have a thorough understanding of the legal system and the experience to guide you through the judicial process, ensuring you receive fair treatment before the law. Contact us for a free consultation.

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Child Pornography