US & Canada

Rehtaeh Parsons: Two in court on child pornography offences

A mourner holds a photograph of Rehtaeh Parsons (April 2013)
Image caption Rehtaeh's death prompted outrage and debate about cyber-bullying

Two teenagers have appeared in court charged with child pornography offences over the alleged cyber-bullying of a Canadian girl who took her own life.

The 18-year-olds, who will not be named as both were youths at the time of the alleged offences, appeared briefly at the hearing in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Rehtaeh Parsons, 17, was severely bullied over a photo of her alleged rape by four boys, her mother has said.

She was taken off life support after a suicide attempt in April.

One of the accused was charged with two counts of distribution of child pornography, the other with one count each of making child pornography and distribution of child pornography.

Police 'dropped the ball'

Outside court on Thursday, supporters of the family held "Justice for Rehtaeh Parsons" signs.

Image caption Prosecutors say they will not be charging anyone with the alleged rape

After the boys' appearance, defence lawyer Josh Arnold said they had already been tried and convicted by the media.

"It appears that individuals on the internet and certain members of the media conducted their own one-sided trial in relation to this matter," he was quoted as saying by the Globe and Mail newspaper.

Rehtaeh's parents were not present in court, but her uncle, Michael Parsons, did attend.

"I have absolutely no faith in the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] or the Halifax city police or the crown prosecutors because they totally dropped this case, they totally dropped the ball," he was quoted as saying afterwards by CBC News.

The next hearing in the case is set for 19 September.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he hoped the arrests would provide some comfort to Rehtaeh's relatives.

The provincial government has ordered an independent review of the case's handling by the police and prosecutors.

The RCMP has warned those in Halifax who believe they know the identities of the two 18-year-olds not to share the information or take any vigilante action.

According to Rehtaeh's mother, Leah Parsons, the Nova Scotia teenager went to a party in 2011, when she was 15, and became drunk on vodka.

The girl told her parents that while she was heavily intoxicated, she was raped by four boys, and someone took a photograph of the assault.

The image was circulated online, and soon her schoolmates were bullying her incessantly, her mother said.

"She was never left alone," Ms Parsons said at the time of Rehtaeh's death.

Police at first said they did not have grounds to make any arrests in connection with the alleged rape or the photograph.

The investigation was reopened in April after police said they had received new information.

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