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Ban upheld in child porn case after parents ask for daughter's name to be public

HALIFAX - A provincial court judge in Halifax upheld a publication ban Friday on the identity of a teenaged girl in a prominent child pornography case after her parents asked that their daughter's name be made public.

Judge Jamie Campbell said the case is unusual, but he warned lifting the ban might set a precedent that leads to the identification of victims in other child pornography cases.

As a judge, he said he has to apply the law even if he doesn't personally agree with the consequences in a single case.

Campbell said a Criminal Code provision requiring judges to ban the identification of a person who appears in child pornography prevails over other statutes including the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which allows parents to waive publication bans if their child dies.

The girl in this case is deceased.

Two teens face charges of distributing child pornography in connection with the case, while one of them also faces a charge of making child pornography.

Campbell said it's clear Parliament didn't intend exceptions to apply to the Criminal Code ban on identification in child pornography cases, even if the case is being prosecuted under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

"If we open the door here we don't know what's behind it," he said.

Campbell also said if he decided the Youth Criminal Justice Act prevailed over the ban in the Criminal Code, it could lead to irresponsible parents causing further harm to their children.

To make his point, Campbell used a hypothetical example of a 17-year-old father who makes pornographic images of his child and who falls under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. In that example, he said the father could — after the child and the child's mother dies — decide to allow the publication of the child's name to torment or blackmail the grandparents.

"Child pornography cases can plumb the depths of human depravity and even parents have been known to make pornographic images of their own children," he said.

Campbell noted that the Crown prosecution service can decide not to prosecute if the ban is broken.

The Crown made arguments in court in favour of lifting the ban, citing the parents' desire to have their daughter's name revealed and the attention the case has received.

A spokeswoman for the public prosecution service says the Crown will review a written version of the judge's decision before commenting.

Outside court, a lawyer for media outlets that applied to have the ban lifted said if the Crown decided it's not in the public interest to prosecute in this case, "that would be an elegant solution."

"It would serve the public interest not to prosecute," said Nancy Rubin.

She said the girl's parents or the media could still argue the ban in the Criminal Code violates charter rights guaranteeing freedom of expression, but that would have to be argued at a higher court.

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