Police make arrests in Rehtaeh Parsons case

HALIFAX – Two males were arrested Thursday in the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, the 17-year-old Halifax girl who died following a suicide attempt in what her family says stemmed from months of online bullying after an alleged sexual assault.

The RCMP and Halifax police said Thursday they arrested two males at their homes in Halifax at around 8 a.m. and took them into custody where they were being questioned. The Mounties did not release further information on the males arrested, including what they were arrested for.

READ MORE: Rehtaeh Parsons’ mom ‘hopeful’ after arrests

Rehtaeh was taken off life-support in April after she attempted suicide in her home. Her family says she was bullied for months after a digital photo of her allegedly being sexually assaulted in November 2011 was passed around her school.

READ MORE: First-in-Canada law allows N.S. cyberbullying victims to sue, seek protection

“We’re just hopeful that … there’s charges laid,” Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh’s mother, said in an interview.

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“I feel that the investigation wasn’t handled properly from the beginning and I’ve never seen the file, so I don’t really know why or how that happened. I’m just glad that it was reopened and I’m really happy that they have two people to question.”

The RCMP said earlier this year that they looked into the allegations of sexual assault and an inappropriate photo but concluded there were no grounds to lay charges. They later reopened their investigation, saying they received new information.

READ MORE: Report calls for new law against sharing intimate photos without consent

Rehtaeh’s death sparked national outrage and prompted the Nova Scotia government to launch reviews of the RCMP’s original investigation into the case and the school board’s handling of the matter. The review of the RCMP’s original investigation is ongoing.

An independent review released in June concluded the Halifax Regional School Board could have done a better job, but it was hindered by the fact that Rehtaeh was often absent from class. The report also said the Parsons family faced challenges when they turned to Nova Scotia’s mental health system for help.

The arrests come a day after a new law took effect in the province that allows people to sue if they or their children are being cyberbullied. Victims can also seek a protection order that could place restrictions on or help identify the cyberbully.

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Justice Minister Ross Landry introduced the legislation weeks after Rehtaeh’s death.

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