2017-09-13

Dropbox Six granted conditional discharges

by Keith Corcoran

  • <p>The six boys, known as the Dropbox Six, were sentenced Wednesday in Bridgewater provincial court.</p>

This story has been updated

The Bridgewater area young men who used a online file hosting service to collect, store and share intimate images of 21 different females will avoid criminal convictions on their record when they finish a series of court orders set out as part of a conditional discharge.

Two 19 year olds and four 16 year olds - known as the Dropbox Six - previously admitted in a Bridgewater court to distributing an intimate image without consent, a relatively new criminal code offence established to combat online harassment. None of young men can be named because they were all under 18 at the time of the criminal allegations.

The males must - among other conditions - complete 50 hours of community service work within six months, complete any necessary counselling, and, over the next nine months, have no contact with victims and their families unless they consent, and not access, view, store or distribute pornography.

Judge Paul Scovil granted the conditional discharge during a September 6 sentencing hearing.

Scovil commented the young men took advantage of vulnerable females and treated them as objects for sexual gratification. The teens abused the female's trust, resulting in far reaching ripple effects, the judge went on.

"Anyone to suggest that these women are at fault are completely wrong," Scovil said.

"I wish to make it clear to every one of the victims and their families these girls did nothing wrong. It is not their fault. I also want the parents of these girls to know that they too are not at fault and should no way blame themselves nor their child. Equally, the parents of the accused should know that they too are not at fault."

Charges of possessing and distributing child pornography were dropped following sentencing.

The Crown initially argued for a sentence that included probation but changed it to a conditional discharge. Peter Dostal of the special prosecutions unit, also lobbied for internet access restrictions and a DNA order aimed at the six.

Defence lawyers called for absolute discharges for their clients.

A police investigation started in May 2015 as a result of a complaint from school administration at Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School.

Local girls, some as young as 13, were pressured to - and later regretted transmitting - intimate pictures to the teenage boys. Girls used the mobile picture-and-video app Snapchat as the main method of distribution and screen shots were taken of the transmitted images.

The six young men were part of a private Facebook chat group and the intimate photographs of female students became a topic of discussion.

Some images displayed full or partial faces. File names included the girl's name and/or specific body part shown. Pictures contained images of breasts, vaginal and anal areas.

A pair of password-protected accounts via the file-sharing service Dropbox were created with one containing up to 60 nude or suggestive images and the other having up to 15 pictures, most of which were identical to the other account.

One Dropbox account was created by two of the boys and was associated with an email address belonging to one of them. All the images - plus the account - were deleted in April 2015.

A second Dropbox account was created by two of the boys associated to the email address theboys@aredope.com. The photos and account were also deleted in April 2015.

Sixteen electronic devices were seized during the course of the investigation, including Apple iPads and iPhones.

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