Custodial sentence of 16 months held to be without reasonable alternative, after young offender threatens women by doxing
By: Dallas Mack
R. v. A. (B.L.) , 2015 CarswellBC 1978 (B.C. Prov. Ct.)
BLA, a youth, pled guilty to nine counts of criminal harassment, eight counts of public mischief, four counts of extortion and one count of uttering threats. Nearly all of the offences involved the use of a computer through activities known as “doxing” and “swatting”.
Janzen J. explained those two terms as follows:
Doxing involves publishing on the internet identifiable personal information about an individual that has usually been obtained from social media sites and from hacking into private systems. Depending on the nature of the information, its disclosure can cause the victim distress, fear, embarrassment and shame. The personal information can be used by others to facilitate identity theft and fraud. The threat to publish private information can also be used by the person who holds the information for extortion and blackmail purposes.
Swatting involves tricking an emergency service agency into dispatching an emergency response based on a false report of an ongoing critical incident. Swatting can lead to the deployment of a range of emergency response teams including police, fire and bomb squads and the evacuation of businesses, schools or other public institutions [paras. 3-4].
The first victim of these crimes was a young woman who streamed herself playing a popular online video game. BLA texted her early in the morning and demanded that she show her butt on the Internet or he would reveal her credit card number and her parents’ credit rating online. BLA also threatened to send out a SWAT team to her home. The young woman reported the calls to police and was told to ignore BLA.
BLA then disabled her Internet, ordered a taxi to her residence three times and then called the local police. Once on the phone BLA identified himself as the young woman’s boyfriend and claimed to have taken the young woman and her family hostage. Police deployed significant resources before discovering that the call was a hoax.
BLA posted fake sex ads using this first victim’s email address, changed her email address and hacked her cell phone account.
The second victim was also a young woman who played a popular video game and streamed it online. She began experiencing problems with her Internet connection and BLA told her the problems would stop only if she sent her some pictures. BLA obtained personal information about her and threatened to distribute it. He also called her father and threatened to rape the young woman.
A third young woman was asked to send photos of herself and when she took steps to block BLA he threatened to disrupt her Internet service, post her personal information online and send SWAT teams to her address.
A fourth young woman, another gamer, was asked by BLA to send photos. BLA hacked her computer and obtained her personal information. When she refused to send the requested pictures BLA placed a hoax call to police claiming a hostage situation at the young woman’s home address.
A sixth woman and her parents were harassed after BLA repeatedly sent the young woman text messages, hacked her twitter account and obtained her personal information. BLA signed her up for an expensive cell phone plan and posted the personal information of her parents online as well.
Several other woman were subject to the same type of online attacks involving the hacking of their personal information, takeover of their social media and posting of personal information.
Other offences involved sending police to Simon Fraser University, Disneyland in Anaheim, a high school in Florida, and four residential addresses — three in the US and one in Canada.
A number of pre-sentence reports were prepared for the sentencing hearing and they noted the following:
• A misogynistic attitude underlying the selection of victims.
• Minimal “provocation” was required before BLA would be willing to engage in doxing and swatting. Rejection of a friend request was sufficient.
• BLA minimized the crimes by blaming the victims.
• BLA did not acknowledge the harm done to the victims and showed no remorse.
• The motivation for the crimes was pleasure derived from the distress of the victims and the prestige gained from BLA’s online peer group.
The Crown sought a sentence of 16 months incarceration following by 8 months of community supervision [para. 59]. The defence argued that the time spent in custody to date was sufficient and that a reasonable period of community supervision was all that was required [paras. 60-61].
Janzen J. held that a sentence of 16 months followed by 8 months of community supervision was the appropriated disposition.
In so doing the court held:
[S]watting is not a harmless prank or practical joke. At best, it is a waste of vital public resources on which people depend and at worst it could lead to the loss of life of an innocent person. Your offences not only wasted the time and resources of a large number of police and other public safety agencies across North America. You also inflicted fear, trauma and humiliation on your innocent victim [para. 72].
Given that the court was sentencing BLA as a youth Janzen J. addressed section 39 of the YCJA which requires the court to consider alternative to a custodial sentence. On that point the court held:
Many factors have led me to conclude that there is no reasonable alternative to a custodial sentence in your case. They include the seriousness of the offences; the order of magnitude of your criminal activity within a period of less than one year; the fact that you not only failed to comply with the terms of two separate releases but that you committed more offences of the same nature while released into the community; and the opinion of the psychiatrist and the psychologist that you pose a very high risk to commit further offences upon your release [para. 68].
A. (B.L.) provides an interesting look at how youth are sentenced in relation to crimes perpetrated using the Internet. Although the staggering number of offences that were committed by BLA may not be repeated anytime soon the factors that the court considered in crafting a fit sentence can certainly be extrapolated
One such factor was the considerable aggravating factor of the impact on the victims: “a significant aggravating factor is the impact of these offences on your victims and on the public as a whole. You caused trauma, distress and financial harm to many of your victims and disrupted the operations and wasted the resources of eight police departments and several other public safety agencies” [para. 65].