No jail time for second offender in Rehtaeh Parsons case

Independent inquiry resumes.

Leah Parsons speaks with reporters yesterday at court.
Hilary Beaumont
Leah Parsons speaks with reporters yesterday at court.

A second man who pleaded guilty to distributing an explicit photo of Rehtaeh Parsons was sentenced yesterday to 12 months probation as a Nova Scotia court dusted its hands of the case.

That’s 12 months of probation for looking directly into the lens of his friend’s camera and flashing a thumbs-up as he penetrated the vomiting 15-year-old, and then texting the photo to two people the next day. Rehtaeh’s peers harassed and slut-shamed her as a result of the photo. She later died following a suicide attempt. She was 17.

Still, a year of probation is a harsher penalty than the photographer received. The same judge, Gregory Lenehan, handed the other young offender a conditional discharge for snapping the photo and texting it to the young man who appeared in the photo.

Neither of the men can be named because they were underage when the photo was taken. Their names are protected by a publication ban. In December, NS justice minister Lena Diab lifted the ban on Rehtaeh’s name, provided it’s used respectfully.

The judge’s hands were mostly tied for the two sentences. Since the two men were minors at the time, they are not as morally culpable as adults, and the court must focus on rehabilitating them into society, justice Lenehan told the court. Both men pleaded guilty to the child pornography charges, which in the eyes of the court means they took responsibility for their actions.

Now that the court proceedings are done, former Ontario chief prosecutor Murray Segal can finally resume his independent inquiry into the case. As you probably recall, when Rehtaeh told police she was raped, they didn’t lay sexual assault charges. Child pornography charges were only laid after the case was publicized around the world. Her parents are still wondering why.

Rehtaeh’s mother Leah Parsons said she planned to meet with Segal now that the case is over.

“We’ve been waiting for that more so than we’ve been waiting for the sentencing results,” she said yesterday. “We are curious and we’ve been wondering for three years now what are in those reports and what are the reasons that nothing was done when it should have been done, and why no sexual assault charges, and we look forward to seeing what the results are of the review.”

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