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Teen B.C. girl guilty of sexting child porn

VICTORIA - Canada's teens were warned Friday to be aware of who takes their picture and where those images may end up after a Victoria-area girl was convicted of distributing child pornography.

The 17-year-old girl who sent explicit texts of her boyfriend's former girlfriend was also convicted of possession of child porn and uttering threats.

"Always be careful of what you allow of pictures to be taken, what you send to whom," Crown Prosecutor Chandra Fisher said outside of court moments after the teen's guilty verdict.

"(Teens) need to be careful what they send, what they send to each other and where it might end up."

Fisher said there are many tragic Canadian incidents where young people have taken their own lives over images distributed by others over the Internet.

The suicides of Canadian teens Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd have prompted nationwide cyberbullying awareness campaigns and calls for tougher laws to prevent Internet harassment.

The girl was found guilty of the child pornography charges because the subject of her so-called sexting messages was also a teen. She cannot be named because she was convicted under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The uttering threats conviction resulted from the teen's Internet threats, via texts and on Facebook, to physically harm the other teen if she came to her Victoria-area high school. The girl also threatened to harm the other teen's unborn child through texts.

Youth Court Judge Sue Wishart said the thousands of text messages were meant to intimidate the victim and the tenor of the messages was "mean, rude and antagonistic. The images in question come within the definition of child pornography."

But the case didn't end Friday as defence counsel Christopher Mackie said he plans to launch a constitutional argument against the conviction.

Mackie told the court he would argue that it's unconstitutional to charge youths who engage in sexting with child-pornography offences because the process of sending erotic images by wireless devices is currently lawful for adults.

Outside court, Mackie told reporters his client and her family feel picked on by the law. The case will be back in court on Jan. 28 to set a date for the constitutional arguments.

"We wanted to ideally avoid this kind of situation that we have now where my client has a conviction of child pornography," Mackie said. "The concern being that if ultimately we succeed on the constitutional argument and it's found to be unconstitutional, then she's had to deal with the stigma of having been painted a child pornographer for the interim."

He said making the constitutional argument was "a necessary step in the process of fighting this fight."

The court heard earlier that the convicted teen sent the photos and thousands of other texts when she was 16 and was charged last year.

The case resulted when the boyfriend broke up with his former girlfriend and moved to Victoria.

The boyfriend allowed his new Victoria girlfriend to see explicit photos of his former girlfriend, which eventually resulted in the distribution of the photos and ensuing threats.

Outside court, Fisher said the evidence included 36,000 texts, that forced the prosecutor to get a crash course in texting symbols and language used by many young Canadians.

"I had trouble understanding text language and I had to take a lesson in what some of these symbols meant," she said.

Mackie said he is keenly aware that he will be making a constitutional argument to drop the convictions against his client while the federal government is moving to strengthen Canada's laws against cyberbullying.

Justice Minister Peter MacKay recently introduced a proposed cyberbullying law to battle the often hurtful spread of intimate images.

He said the proposed law will give police greater powers to investigate allegations of cyberbullying by giving courts the right to seize computers, phones and other devices used in an alleged offences.

People who post or transmit an intimate image of another person without that person's consent could face up to five years in prison.

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