Child pornography charges are a very serious matter in Canada, as they are classified as an offence tending to corrupt morals.
These offences cover any actions that constitute the production, printing, publishing, importing, distributing, selling or possession of child pornography.
If you face charges of child pornography in Ottawa, receiving prompt legal advice is essential. Besides the severe reputational damage such charges can do, a conviction can have life-changing consequences with a jail term of up to 10 years.
However, false or inaccurate charges are common and mistakes are frequently made during the investigation process. Just because you’re charged, it doesn’t mean you’re guilty.
Our child pornography defence lawyers will help you build a defense that can prevent the most serious consequences.
What is child pornography?
Section 163 of the Criminal Code of Canada says this about obscene materials and child pornography:
163 (1) Every person commits an offence who makes, prints, publishes, distributes, circulates or has in their possession for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation any obscene written matter, picture, model, phonograph record or any other obscene thing.
It goes on to say that child pornography includes photographs, film, video or other visual representations of a person (real or imaginary) under the age of 18 engaged in (or depicted as engaged in) explicit sexual activity. It also applies if a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of 18 is depicted.
To achieve a conviction, the prosecution must prove that the defendant intentionally interacted with such materials.
What will happen if you’re suspected of a child pornography offence in Ottawa?
The Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit is responsible for investigating allegations of child pornography in Ontario.
If you’re a suspect based on information from an informant, investigators may monitor your online activity to observe the sharing or uploading of child pornography images, videos or other materials.
Any evidence gathered against you could be used to secure a search warrant that allows investigators to search your computer, cellphone or another electronic device (for which you must provide passwords, if necessary).
During this process, you may be arrested and taken in for questioning. It is essential to speak to a child pornography lawyer before you say too much during questioning.
If the investigators find sufficient evidence, you will be charged with one of the following four child pornography offences.
Accessing child pornography (mainly through online channels nowadays)
Possessing child pornography (knowingly having control over the material)
Distributing child pornography (making it available to others)
Making child pornography (controlling its production)
If there is a lack of evidence to proceed with a prosecution, the charges may be “stayed” or withdrawn.
The bail process
If you’re charged with a child pornography offence, the first step is to secure bail and inform your loved ones where you are (they’ll be unable to contact you if you’re held in custody).
Your bail hearing will be held at the local courthouse within 24 hours of your arrest. Before that, one of our criminal lawyers will contact the prosecutor assigned to your bail hearing, obtain details of the allegations against you and begin negotiating your release.
At the bail hearing, the judge will consider the following key factors when deciding whether to release you:
Whether detention is necessary to secure your attendance in court
Whether detention is necessary to protect the public
Whether detention is necessary to maintain confidence in the administration of justice
Child pornography charges are serious so, while you should be released, your freedom is likely to require a surety, cash, or a no-cash deposit.
Depending on your past criminal history and other factors, strict conditions are likely to be attached to your release, such as:
No possession or use of any devices for accessing the internet
No attending playgrounds, parks or other public places where children are likely to be
No communication with any children under the age of 16
No travel outside Ontario
Reporting to probation
With representation from our child pornography lawyers, we can often make a case for the least restrictive conditions to be imposed. For instance, if you need to access the internet for work, we may be able to modify the restriction on using electronic devices.
Whatever bail conditions are imposed, it is essential that you abide by them or you may face another criminal charge or revocation of your bail.
Penalties for child pornography charges in Ottawa
Child pornography charges come with mandatory minimum punishments and lengthy maximum sentences.
Accessing or possessing child pornography:
For an indictable offence: a minimum of one-year imprisonment (up to 10 years maximum).
For a summary conviction: a minimum of six months imprisonment (up to two years less a day maximum).
Making or distributing child pornography:
This is an indictable offence that carries a mandatory minimum punishment of one-year imprisonment, with a maximum of 14 years.
Certain aggravating factors can increase the punishments, such as being caught in possession of a large volume of child-based pornographic materials, depictions of very young children or if you intended to profit from the material.
A conviction for making, possessing or distributing child pornography also means mandatory registration with the National Sex Offender Registry.
Defending child pornography charges in Ontario
Once we understand the nature of the charges against you, an experienced criminal lawyer will immediately start preparing your defence.
Child pornography cases can be technical and may require specialist criminal legal knowledge. Remember, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the charge(s).
Our lawyers will start preparing your defence by examining police actions and the evidence against you.
Some of the defences that we can often consider for this type of offence include the following:
Legitimate reason/no undue harm: if the pornographic material was produced for a legitimate reason related to the administration of justice, science, medicine, education or art and does not pose an undue risk of harm to minors, you cannot be convicted.
Lack of knowledge: you did not know that the person depicted was under 18 and took reasonable steps to establish that this wasn’t the case.
Lack of control: you did not have the level of control of the material required to be convicted of possession (a conviction for possession requires both knowledge and control).
Innocent possession: you possessed the material for the sole purpose of delivering it to authorities or destroying it.
Violation of constitutional rights: if your rights were violated when the investigation team gathered evidence (unlawful search and seizure), the evidence may not be admissible and the case against you may be dismissed.
Sometimes, a simple administrative/systemic error, such as lost or destroyed evidence, can be enough to secure your release but it may require the experience of a seasoned criminal lawyer to get to that stage,
Contact a tenacious child pornography defence lawyer today
Our lawyers in Ottawa handle sex crime defence by focusing on all aspects of the needs of the accused: personal, professional and legal. Call us at 613-223-4089 in Ottawa, or contact us online to book a FREE consultation.