A 17-year-old Ottawa girl has been sentenced to the maximum youth penalty of three years, under Canada’s new human trafficking law. It’s a precedent-setting case. In sentencing the teenager this morning, Justice Diane Lahaie credited the girl with time and a half served, which means the youth will spend another 5 months in jail and an additional 76 days under community supervision.
The teen is the youngest of three arrested in June of 2012 for a string of horrific crimes against young girls, including human trafficking, making child pornography, robbery and assault. Court heard there were as many as 9 victims, ranging in age for 13 to 17.
The girl was who 15 at the time of her arrest, had pleaded not guilty initially but changed her plea last year.
Lahaie told teenager that while she's been a model citizen since placed at youth facility, she needs to focus on positive personal growth and working on substance abuse. The detectives who worked on the case say the maximum sentence sends a strong message.
I think this was one of toughest cases we had, said Detective Carolyn Botting outside the court after the sentencing, “and we couldn't have done it without the victims. They were all incredibly brave, they all came forward, went through this lengthy process. We still have one accused, we can't forget that. The victims have been through a lot and so have their families.”
The accused stood quietly in the prisoner’s box as Lahaie read out her sentence, telling the girl “at some point, you need to look outside yourself and admit what you did was wrong. You hurt many people.”
The girl had earlier submitted at letter of apology to the court in which she stated, “I deeply regret the choices I made and pray that they do not have a lasting negative impact on the complainants as well as myself, as I can recognize this was a horrific act of selfishness and bullying.”
Detective Botting said the crimes against the young victims were “life-changing” and that one of the girls had contemplated suicide as a result.
“These are horribly tragic crimes and this is about the victims and their families,” said Botting. “And it isn't just the victims, their parents go through this and they have to live with this every day. That's what is important here is how brave these girls were.”
She added that there is a message in this horrific case for all parents.
“This was an incredible example of human trafficking and how it can be your daughter, your next door neighbor. This was a young girl getting dropped off at a sleepover. So if you think human trafficking isn't in your neighborhood or doesn’t affect your family, it very well could.”
The alleged ringleader in the case, another 17-year-old girl, has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. She is in court January 29th for a verdict.