The case against an East Preston man accused of trafficking a teenage girl has been adjourned for a month.
Owen Ross Gibson-Skeir hid his face from television cameras as he was led by sheriff deputies from Halifax Provincial Court to jail on Monday.
It’s alleged Gibson-Skeir sexually exploited and trafficked a 14-year-old girl in both Dartmouth and Halifax between January 10 and March 9, 2016. He was arrested over the weekend by RCMP in Cole Harbour.
In total, Gibson-Skeir is facing nearly a dozen charges, including procuring a person under the age of 18, trafficking a person under the age of 18, sexual assault, assault, uttering threats and advertising sexual services.
Halifax Regional Police confirm the young victim is from the Halifax area and is now safe.
In the last two years, officers have charged five people with human trafficking offences in the city.
“The cases are hard to investigate, a lot of times the victims aren’t trusting of police because they’ve been pretty well brainwashed into not communicating with authority,” said Staff Sgt. Darrell Gaudet.
Teen allegedly procured into prostitution, controlled
In this particular case, it’s alleged that the teenager was procured into prostitution and controlled by Gibson-Skeir.
Investigators with Halifax Regional Police say they take every case of human trafficking seriously.
“A lot of the manipulation that is done by the pimps is quite violent, to keep people in line, to keep people in the trade. They can’t just walk out. We’re talking youth, so they’re being manipulated.”
The lawyer currently representing the accused, Kai Glasgow, also said he sees cases of human trafficking quite often.
“I would say once every couple of months you’ll see a charge or charges like this, unfortunately,” Glasgow said.
Stepping Stone is an Organization in Halifax that has been working with sex workers in the city for nearly three decades.
In light of the case against Gibson-Skeir and other high-profile cases of human trafficking in the region, they want the public to know there’s a difference between sex work and human trafficking.
“We work specifically with sex workers so we come from a place where sex work is consensual, and human trafficking is a whole other kettle of fish,” said program manager T.L. Johannesson.
“It’s not consensual. It’s exploitative and it’s cohesive. We don’t believe that that is right. Stepping stone believes that sex work is work and those that can consent to consenting adults can work in the field if they want to.”
Stepping Stone admits they do see cases where both males and females under the age of 16 are involved in human trafficking, but say despite the increasing media coverage of the cases, the numbers are steady.
“This past year, we have not seen an increase in cases of human trafficking,” Johannesson said.
Gibson-Skeir will remain in custody until his next appearance on April 20, where it’s expected he will enter a plea in relation to the charges he is facing.