What you should know about the charge of luring a child

What you should know about the charge of luring a child

By Matt Deshaye

When a 39-year-old man went to a Calgary LRT station two years he thought he was going to meet a 15-year-old girl he had been chatting with online in order to have sex, according to a news report. Instead, he was met by an undercover officer and changed with luring a child.

The crime of luring a child involves using social media, email or other online platforms to communicate with people under 18 for sexual purposes. That can be done on well-known online platforms such as Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat, or on other less familiar platforms, such as Telegram, Kick and Wickr. The latter group offers private peer-to-peer chatrooms where the identities of users can easily be covered up.

A conviction can result in incarceration, not to mention public humiliation. In the case of the man at the LRT station, he pleaded guilty and was imprisoned for two years. He also faces deportation when he is released. That is why you need to contact an experienced criminal lawyer if you face luring charges.

A relatively new offence

The crime of luring was added to the Criminal Code in 2002, with s.172.1 (1) making it illegal to communicate with someone “who the accused believes is under the age of 18 years” for the purposes of sexual exploitation, incest, child pornography or sexual assault.

To be convicted of child luring, the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:

  • intentionally communicated with the complainant via a computer;
  • knew, or at least believed, that the person you were communicating with was a youth under the age of consent; and
  • you were communicating with the other party for reasons of a sexual nature.

It doesn’t matter if you thought they were 18

It is not a defence to say that you assumed the person you were chatting with was of legal age. The Criminal Code states that you must take “reasonable steps” to ascertain the true age of anyone you meet online for sexual purposes. That could include asking to see a government-issued photo ID or other legitimate forms of proof of age. The burden lies on the accused to confirm the age of the person they are chatting with, especially if sexual arrangements are being made.
It is up to the court to decide if your communications with a minor constitute child luring. Not all cases are clear cut and maybe it was a case of mistaken identity, intentional framing by someone else or an innocent mind. 

There are defences available

The best defence against a child luring charge will depend on the circumstances that led to the arrest. Here are three common defences.

The communication was not for sexual purposes

It is not a crime for adults to chat with minors online. The Crown must be able to prove that the communication was for sexual reasons. However, any statements that you made during the online conversation that are sexual or hint at sexual intent will work against you. 

There is not enough evidence

As your defence attorney I will examine all of the prosecutor’s evidence. That could include electronic records showing that messages to a minor came from your computer. Even if that is the case, other people could have had access to that computer, especially if you live in a residence with others. This will raise uncertainty about who sent the messages. If the messages to the youth came from an internet café by someone using a fake name and an anonymous account, the Crown may have trouble proving that you have committed an offence.

Some internet service providers will supply information to police if they have a warrant. Others, especially those located abroad, may not recognize the jurisdiction of Canadian law and will not grant requests for assistance, which will weaken the Crown’s case.

Your Charter rights were violated

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants you the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure. Section 8 states: “no one can search you, take away your personal belongings or access your personal information without clear legal reasons … authorities acting on behalf of the government, such as the police, must carry out their duties in a fair and reasonable way.”

That is why police cannot enter private property or seize items without legal justification as they must apply for a warrant from a judge. If investigators overstepped their powers, I can argue that any evidence collected should not be admitted at trial.

The penalty can be harsh

Child luring is a hybrid offence, which means the Crown has the option of prosecuting it either as an indictable offence or as a summary conviction. If it is treated as an indictable offence, the maximum sentence is 14 years in prison, with the minimum punishment being one year in custody.

If your charge is treated as a summary conviction, the maximum penalty is a jail term of not more than two years less a day with the minimum punishment being six months in custody.

Upon conviction, your name, fingerprints and other details may be added to the federal sex offender registry. A conviction can also bring serious personal consequences, such as the loss of friends and the trust and support of family members along with damage to your reputation within the community.

Internet luring across Canada

According to Statistics Canada, between 2014 and 2020 police reported 10,739 incidents of online sexual offences against children where the victim had been identified by police. The rate of police-reported incidents of online child sexual exploitation and abuse has been on an upward trend, increasing from 50 incidents per 100,000 population in 2014, when cybercrime data were first collected nationally, to 131 per 100,000 in 2020.

Luring a child accounted for the large majority (77 per cent) of online sexual offences against children. Seven in 10 victims were girls aged 12 to 17 and 13 per cent were females 12.

Other findings include:

  • About two out of three child sexual offences were committed by a stranger (39 per cent) or a casual acquaintance (25 per cent), and nearly one in four were victimized by a friend (eight per cent), a family member (seven per cent) or an intimate partner (seven per cent).
  • More than four in 10 police-reported incidents of online sexual offences against children were cleared or solved. Charges were laid or recommended in 74 per cent of all sexual offences against children where an accused had been identified.
  • The vast majority (91 per cent) of people accused of online child sexual exploitation and abuse (including sexual violations against children and child pornography) were men and boys who were generally much older than victims.
  • Charges related to child sexual offences committed online were more likely to result in a conviction than charges than other online sexual violations against children.
  • More than one in three (36 per cent) court charges of child sexual offences likely committed online resulted in the accused being found guilty, compared with 29 per cent of offline charges. Eight in 10 adults convicted of online child sexual offences received a  custodial sentence.

Call us for assistance

The stigma associated with child luring charges can be long-lasting. If you are charged with this crime you need to speak to experienced defence counsel immediately to prevent saying something that can later be used against you. The lawyers at Dunn & Associates can advise and defend you at every step of the way to ensure that you get fair treatment before the law. Contact us for a free consultation.