Speaking Notes – Charges in Rehtaeh Parsons Investigation

Chief Superintendent Roland Wells, Halifax District RCMP

Chief Supt Wells
Chief Supt Wells
“Good evening. Chief Blais and I are here today to provide an update on the investigation involving Rehtaeh Parsons. We committed to the community and media that when our investigation was completed we would provide an update.

Earlier today we announced arrests of two males in relation to the ongoing investigation involving Rehtaeh Parsons. This evening, I can tell you investigators have charged both of these men. An 18-year-old male from HRM is facing two counts of Distribution of Child Pornography. A second 18-year-old male from HRM is charged with Making Child Pornography and Distributing Child Pornography. Both have been released on a promise to appear in Halifax Youth Court on August 15, 2013.

As we moved to make these arrests this morning, our thoughts were first and foremost with Rehtaeh’s parents. They were informed prior to anything being released publicly. We committed to keep them updated through the investigation and we have done so each week. While I cannot speak for them, I can tell you that we hope that today’s arrests help the entire community to heal.

A young girl has died in what was a tragic set of circumstances. We all need to reflect on how we as a community can come together in Rehtaeh’s memory and see what we can do to work together to support our youth.

I recognize many will ask why have you laid the charges now? Why not before? Police reopened the investigation in April when new and credible information came to our attention. The new information prompted investigators to reopen the investigation and examine the totality of the evidence. From that, further consultation with the Crown occurred and resulted in charges being laid today.

We understand there will be much interest and speculation about the accused. Their names are not being released as they were youths at the time of the incident. While people may feel they know the identity of the two accused, anyone who releases their names or other information that could identify them would be a breach under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and that person could face charges. Similarly, we will not tolerate vigilante actions against the accused.

With the investigation now completed and a pending review by the Department of Justice, we are hopeful this will help answer the questions that many have posed about what occurred and the police investigation.

It’s only natural that we would ask ourselves what we could do differently to avoid another tragedy. And it’s on all of us to ask that question and improve our service to the community. We need a whole of community approach to support our youth.”

Chief Jean-Michel Blais, Halifax Regional Police

Chief Blais
Chief Blais
“Both Chief Superintendent Wells and I are parents. Chief Superintendent Wells has two sons and I am the father of three children, two of whom are young women. I can tell you that we have both felt impacted by the circumstances of this case, both as parents and police officers. As well, I can tell you that all our investigative and front-line police officers share our view and feelings in this matter.

A young girl, who could easily have been my own daughter, experienced what appears to be the harsh nature of a world of people wanting to do harm and using social media to do it. I cannot imagine the impact Rehtaeh’s death has had on her family and friends, nor do I expect that today’s charges will bring them all the answers they seek.

We realize that the foremost question in most people’s minds is whether or not charges of sexual assault will be laid in this case. The evidence before us did not support the laying of sexual assault charges in the initial investigation, concluded in November 2012. After the investigation was reopened in April of this year, investigators again examined whether or not charges could be laid and determined that the available evidence did not meet the threshold for sexual assault charges against the two individuals in this matter.

Investigators also consulted with the Crown throughout the investigation, as we often rely on their expertise and advice in complex cases. We sought this advice at two different points in the matter – first with the Crown in Nova Scotia in November 2012 and then later with the Crown in Ontario this very month – and it was determined that there was insufficient evidence to support charges of sexual assault.

I recognize that may not have been the expected outcome for some and this news will impact people differently. To help provide some context around this decision, it is important to consider that there has been much misinformation and misunderstanding in the public realm about this matter. What some people may believe occurred and what can be substantiated in a police investigation through verified evidence and what can finally be proved in court are often very different things. We as police officers cannot act on innuendo or speculation. We do not cultivate facts, we verify them. We must base our investigations on facts and evidence so they can withstand the rigorous court process.

As Chief Superintendent Wells has indicated, our initial investigation, concluded in November 2012, will be the subject of review as directed by the Nova Scotia Department of Justice. We will cooperate fully in the review of the investigation. It is imperative we maintain the confidence of our community. It is our belief that such a review will allow us to improve those processes that are deficient, should some be found. It is only through looking at ourselves and how we do things that we can improve and better serve our community. We are also hopeful that our participation in the review will address the questions that we are not currently in a position to answer due to the matter now being before the courts. Our expectation is that the review will also answer those questions regarding why certain decisions were made concerning possible charges.

Our society is growing increasingly complex with the popularity of social media and new technologies. People are using these new technologies to bully, harass and circulate misinformation about people and events. This changes the reality of policing and creates further challenges in our investigations. We hope that the new cyberbullying legislation and the charges laid today will send a strong message that this behaviour will not be tolerated. Regardless, I feel that what is truly at the heart of the matter is that we need to respect one another and ensure our children are respecting one another. We need to change the culture and no one person or institution can do it alone. We need to work together to support our youth and each other. Thank you.”