Police Services Board

PSB seeks limits on nude photographs

By Monte Sonnenberg, Simcoe Reformer

One of these might have come in handy at Welland city hall, Tuesday.

One of these might have come in handy at Welland city hall, Tuesday.

The Norfolk Police Services Board thinks individuals entrusted with intimate photos of friends or loved ones should pay a price if they share them with others or post them on the Internet.

PSB chair Peter Hellyer, of Simcoe, wrote a letter this month to Niagara MP Robert Nicholson, Canada’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, recommending Criminal Code amendments to deal with individuals who violate this trust.

“It concerns us greatly that almost every electronic device has a camera component and therefore (enables) anyone to invade another person’s privacy with pictures that can be mortifying to the subject of the photograph,” Hellyer said in his correspondence.

“We note that other countries — most notably Germany — have specific statutes in their Criminal Code, and we have recently had cases within our community that have victimized high school girls. We also note many others in the press of a similar nature.”

Hellyer was referring to a case earlier this year where young women at Holy Trinity Catholic High School in Simcoe discovered nude images of themselves on the Internet. This happened after the victims “sexted” pictures to boyfriends or young men they were interested in.

As for nude images in the press, the most notorious recent incident involved Princess Catherine (Kate), wife of Prince William, the Crown Prince of England.

The Duchess of Cambridge was photographed in France this summer from a distance of half a mile away sunbathing in various stages of undress. Several European publications published the images despite court orders to the contrary and the evident invasion of privacy.

Voyeuristic activity is already proscribed in Canada’s Criminal Code.

The Norfolk PSB would like a common law provision added giving people control over the publication and dissemination of intimate images of themselves. If approved, it would be against the law for former boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, acquaintances and the media to publicize potentially embarrassing photos of others without their consent.

Insp. Zvonko Horvat, chief of the Norfolk OPP, says child pornography provisions of the Criminal Code already cover aspects of this behaviour. With the advent of the Internet, many high school students have learned the hard way that it is a serious crime to distribute images of a sexual nature depicting youths under the age of 18.

At Wednesday’s meeting of Norfolk’s PSB, Hellyer was reluctant to speculate on what the penalty should be for those who humiliate others in this manner. However, he believes it is something federal officials should get on right away.

“It is a very serious concern that everything these days is a camera and that you can take a picture of anyone anywhere doing anything,” Hellyer said. “This should not be allowed to happen.”

Mayor Dennis Travale, also a member of the PSB, said this is another example of technology catching the law flat-footed.

“We’re always chasing technology,” he said. “It’s something we have to accept.”

The public is stirring to the realization that more is at stake on this issue than simple embarrassment and wounded pride. The dissemination of sexted images that were believed to be private has been implicated in the humiliation and subsequent suicide of several teenage girls, the most recent being Amanda Todd of British Columbia.


Monte Sonnenberg

519-426-3528 ext. 150

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