New date set for men facing child pornography charges in Parsons’ case

Watch above: Suspects in Rehtaeh Parsons case enter courtroom Aug. 15

HALIFAX – Two Halifax men facing child pornography charges after the death of Rehtaeh Parsons appeared briefly in youth court Thursday when the case was put over until Sept. 19 while the defence seeks additional disclosure of evidence.

One 18-year-old man faces two counts of distributing child pornography, while another 18-year-old man is charged with distributing and making child pornography.

Neither man showed any emotion during the court appearance.

Police announced the arrests in the high-profile case last week.

Inside the courthouse, Michael Parsons, Rehtaeh’s uncle, said he’s still struggling to come to grips with what happened.

“I’m a traditional man. I have to pray for these boys. I have to pray for them to become good men and that’s the hardest thing for me to do.”

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Watch below: Reaction outside the courtroom following first appearance of suspects in Rehtaeh Parsons case

Defence attorney Josh Arnold said the Sept. 19 date is to determine where things stand in the disclosure process, and further court dates will likely be set later.

“We were just handed a very small amount of disclosure. Other than that we don’t have anything,” he said.

Arnold said reaction to the case on the Internet amounts to a rush to judgment and that inappropriate comments have been made about the accused men on social media sites.

He said some individuals on the Internet conducted their own one-sided trial.

The names of the teens cannot be released because they were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offences and are charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

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Parsons was taken off life-support following a suicide attempt in April in what her family says was prompted by months of bullying.

They say the 17-year-old girl was tormented after a digital photograph of her allegedly being sexually assaulted in November 2011 was distributed around her school.

A man stands outside the provincial courthouse in Halifax holding a sign demanding justice for Parsons. (Laura Brown/Global News). Laura Brown/Global News

The two men were charged after police reopened their investigation a week after the girl’s death. Police said they had received new and credible information from someone who was willing to co-operate with their investigation.

The prosecution of the two Halifax men is being handled by a Crown attorney from Ontario. Chris Hansen, a spokeswoman for the Public Prosecution Service, has said because the department provided advice to police during the initial investigation, it asked Ontario Crown attorneys to take over to avoid any “real or perceived” conflict.

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After Parsons’ death the provincial government order a number of reviews including one into the original police investigation and the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service’s handling of the case, and two others into the help she received at school and the care she received at a hospital in Halifax.

A new law also went into effect last week in Nova Scotia 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.

After the two men were arrested last week, Rehtaeh’s father said the development brought the family some solace but he expressed disappointment that his daughter never saw justice served in her short life.

“She’s dead now. She’s gone,” Glen Canning said in an interview.

“It’s sad and in a way it’s a bit of relief that there may be some sense of justice done in this case.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who earlier this year met with Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh’s mother, said he hoped that the girl’s family would be given a degree of comfort by the arrests.

Rehtaeh’s family has said the girl felt helpless after the digital photo spread around her school.

Police have said there were no plans to lay charges in connection with the alleged sexual assault.

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The RCMP said earlier this year that they looked into the allegations of sexual assault and an inappropriate photo but after consulting with the province’s Public Prosecution Service, they concluded there weren’t enough grounds to lay charges.

With files from Laura Brown

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