EDMONTON -- People seeking sexual liasons in Internet chatrooms must take reasonable steps to ensure they are not talking with children, Alberta's highest court has ruled.
In a decision released yesterday, a three-judge Court of Appeal of Alberta panel convicted an Edmonton man of Internet luring after overturning his earlier acquittal.
The panel found the trial judge had erred by ruling he was left with a reasonable doubt as to whether Michell Levigne, 50, actually believed he was chatting with a 13-year-old boy, rather than an adult, and saying the Crown must prove the offender knew a minor was involved.
"The uncontradicted evidence is that (Levigne) took no steps to confirm (the boy's) age," ruled the panel, adding the law clearly states no defence is available for the charge "unless the accused took reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the person."
The appeal court also faulted the trial judge for ignoring the express language of the legislation -- despite finding that Levigne was "at least alert to the possibility that he was actually talking to a 13-year-old" -- saying that would "undermine the legislative purpose to protect children from online exploitation."
The panel noted Levigne claimed his belief he was not dealing with a child was based on a chatroom profile saying the person was 18, the person's typing speed, the fact people lie about their age on-line and that there are moderators who screen for underage participants.
The judges ruled those were not reasonable steps due to the person immediately saying he was 13, repeating it three times, complaining about being in Grade 7 and asking if being 13 was "not a problem."
The panel also noted Levigne had admitted under cross examination that he had chatted with Jesse, the undercover officer, about meeting him for oral sex.
Levigne was found not guilty of Internet luring on Nov. 18, 2008, after testifying he never actually believed the person he spoke with during the 2006 chats was 13.
Levigne also testified that if a 13-year-old boy had shown up for their arranged meeting, he "would have walked out."
Instead, he was arrested at the McDonald's restaurant meeting spot at Kingsway Garden Mall.
It is expected that Levigne will be ordered to be sentenced by the trial judge.