Nova Scotia human trafficker charged anew after alleged courtroom threat: ‘I’ll see you’

Owen Gibson-Skeir
Owen Gibson-Skeir is pictured. Gibson-Skeir is the first person convicted of human trafficking in Nova Scotia. Halifax Regional Police

A convicted human trafficker is facing new charges after allegedly threatening his “vulnerable, traumatized” teenage victim in full view of a Halifax courtroom.

READ MORE: Issues of human trafficking centre stage as court adjourns Gibson-Skeir case

Owen Gibson-Skeir, 21, mouthed “I’ll see you,” and made a shooting gesture with his hand at the 15-year-old girl in a Halifax courtroom Wednesday, Crown attorney Catherine Cogswell said Thursday.

Gibson-Skeir, the first person convicted of human trafficking in Nova Scotia, has now been charged with intimidation of a justice participant and uttering threats.

“We protect our witnesses. People that cooperate with the criminal justice system – in particular a vulnerable, traumatized child and her family – we take them very seriously,” said Cogswell.

The victim was 14 years old when Gibson-Skeir pimped her out at hotels and apartments in the Halifax area from January to March 2016. At the time, a police officer said she was one of the youngest girls forced into prostitution in Halifax in decades.

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Gibson-Skeir took all the proceeds, beat her and had sex with her, Cogswell said.

He pleaded guilty to sexual assault and two human trafficking charges: exercising control and directing the movement of a child and materially benefiting from a child.

READ MORE: Man accused of human trafficking arrested in Cole Harbour

Cogswell said Gibson-Skeir sat quietly during Wednesday’s proceeding. She read the facts of the case in court, and Gibson-Skeir did not object. But when sheriffs were leading him out
of the courtroom, he turned to the victim and threatened her.

“He mouthed to the victim, ‘I’ll see you,’ and then with his hand, he made the sign of a gun and repeatedly fired at her with his thumb,” said Cogswell in an interview Thursday.

Cogswell said a Halifax investigator was immediately assigned to the case and within a day, Gibson-Skeir was back in court to face the additional charges.

Cogswell said the victim collapsed into her arms sobbing after finding out Gibson-Skeir was pleading guilty to the human trafficking charges.

He was charged under a Criminal Code of Canada section brought in about 10 years ago. Cogswell said the charges can be difficult to prove.

“It was a very emotional moment,” she said. “She is amazingly strong, but she was incredibly relieved when I told her she didn’t have to testify.”

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Cogswell said the girl met Gibson-Skeir on Facebook at a time when she starting smoking marijuana, running away from home and cutting herself.

When he returned to his home province of Nova Scotia after living in Ontario, he convinced her to become involved in the sex trade.

READ MORE: Halifax police, RCMP partner to launch human trafficking awareness campaign

He advertised her online as a 19-year-old girl and made all the arrangements. She was only told where to go, or brought to the location, said Cogswell.

“All the money went to him. He didn’t buy her anything in terms of clothes or anything of that nature. Just take-out food, cigarettes and weed,” she said, adding the two had sex on at least two occasions.

“He would slap her and call her stupid. One time he grabbed her by the throat and shoved her up against a wall and choked her to the point where she almost stopped breathing. It left his hand print on her neck.”

Cogswell said the victim eventually began to distance herself from Gibson-Skeir.

“The stronger she got and the more that she pulled away, the more aggressive he got,” she said, adding he demanded a $10,000 exit fee and threatened to kill her family.

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Cogswell said she plans to submit a joint recommendation with the defence for a sentence of seven years for the human trafficking and sexual assault charges, and she’ll be seeking an additional two to three years for the two new charges.

Gibson-Skeir is scheduled to return to court Feb. 22.

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