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B.C. man sentenced for making, sharing video of teen girl being sexually assaulted

A stock photo of a cellhphone with the Snapchat app. (unsplash/@neelabh_raj) A stock photo of a cellhphone with the Snapchat app. (unsplash/@neelabh_raj)
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A B.C. man who recorded videos of a 13-year-old girl being sexually assaulted at a party and shared them on social media has been sentenced to eight months in jail for making and distributing child pornography.

George Joseph Harroff pleaded guilty to both crimes, and his sentence was handed down Thursday in Fort St. John.

During a sentencing hearing last year, the court heard a victim impact statement from the girl, who is not named because of a publication ban.

“She said that if Mr. Harroff had never recorded the videos, her experience would not have been as bad as it has been since the sexual assaults occurred,” Justice Andrew Majawa wrote in his decision, summarizing what the teen said.

“I have no doubt that the impact upon her is significant in almost every aspect of her life. D.V. endured the traumatizing experience of being sexually assaulted by more than one person that evening at the house party. In addition, she has to live with the fact that recordings were made of those assaults and shared with others.”

‘It exists forever’

Harroff was 18 when he went to the party at a home in Fort. St. John in November of 2020. The court heard that after he recorded the videos – which the judge calls “graphic and disturbing” – he sent them to several others via Snapchat. However, the judge also notes that they were subsequently seen by or shared with more people.

“He deliberately recorded a young person engaged in explicit and objectively degrading sexual activity and distributed those videos to other individuals, apparently without any forethought of the fact that those videos would likely be further distributed. And not surprisingly, unfortunate as that may be, they were distributed further,” Majawa wrote.

According to the decision, Harroff said he decided to take out his cellphone and start recording “because other people were laughing and he believed it was funny at the time” and that he shared them “as a means of engaging with an inside joke.”

While the judge said he found this motivation inexplicable, he also said it was different than many other cases where the sexual exploitation of children and youth is filmed and distributed for a “sexual purpose.”

Still, Majawa found that Harroff’s “moral blameworthiness” was “relatively high” due, in part, to the harm to the victim and the deliberate nature of the crimes.

The videos and their distribution, the judge said, “significantly and permanently harmed” the victim – and this harm was distinct from the harm caused by the sexual assaults themselves.

“Once a video or image is shared electronically, it exists forever and its dissemination cannot be controlled. It may be that the videos will re-surface at some time in the future and be brought to (the victim’s) attention. Undoubtedly, this would re-traumatize (her) and cause her to suffer further humiliation and injury to her dignity,” Majawa wrote.

“Even if the videos never resurface, the fact that they might at any time is a possibility that (she) will have to live with for the rest of her life. The very fact of their existence will affect the way in which (she) lives her life and the choices she makes, both personally and professionally. The effect of the uncertainty she must live with, and the possibility of experiencing such re-traumatization or humiliation, should not be overlooked nor underappreciated,” Mr. Harroff, as creator of the videos, bears responsibility for these harms.”

‘Legally and morally wrong’

While the initial choice to record the video may have been “impulsive” the judge said, the crimes themselves involved a series of deliberate decisions including pulling out his phone, pressing record, choosing to share the videos with others and sending them. All of those things combined, the judge said, showed that “the level of intentionality was high.”

Even if Harroff did not know how young the victim was when he recorded and shared the videos, the judge said he should have known that what he was doing was “legally and morally wrong.” Not only is recording and distributing sexually explicit videos without consent illegal, the judge said, Harroff did not take any steps to learn the victim’s age nor did he take steps to confirm that she was consenting to the sexual activity – which the judge described again as “objectively degrading.”

The mitigating factors in the case included Harroff’s guilty plea, his expressions of remorse, his relatively young age and his lack of a criminal record. His risk to reoffend was also assessed as low.

The defence asked the court to impose a conditional sentence order while the Crown argued that jail time was necessary. Majawa agreed that Harroff should serve time in custody, sentencing him to eight months for creating child pornography and eight months for distributing child pornography to be served concurrently.

The jail term will be followed by 18 months of probation but Harroff will not be required to register as a sex offender.

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