What is child luring?

Through instant messages, blogs, chat rooms and online games, young people rely on the internet to instantly connect with each other. These same platforms are used by adults who want to lure children for sexual purposes, with the adult often pretending to be a child. The adult may ask the child to swap photos or to meet them somewhere.

In 2002, the Criminal Code was amended to include new offences to help combat the luring of individuals under the age of 18. Section 172.1 (1) makes it an offence to communicate with someone “who the accused believes is under the age of 18 years” for the purposes of sexual exploitation, incest, child pornography or sexual assault.

People can also be charged with child luring if they communicate with someone they believe to be under the age of 16 if it can be shown they intended to commit sexual exploitation, invitation to sexual touching, indecent exposure or abduction.

It is the responsibility of adults to take all reasonable steps to ascertain the true age of the person they are meeting through the internet for a sexual purpose. That could include asking to see government-issued ID or other forms of proof of age.

I have seen cases where a parent will try to financially benefit from their child by offering their private photos or even their sexual services to others.

What is the penalty for child luring?

The charge of child luring is a hybrid offence, meaning that the Crown has the option to prosecute it as an indictable offence or as a summary conviction, the latter having less-severe penalties. Those convicted of an indictable offence face up to 14 years in prison, with a minimum jail sentence of one year. If the charge is treated as a summary conviction, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for a term of not more than two years less a day with a minimum punishment of six months in jail.

The Code adds “It is not a defence … that the accused believed that the person … was at least eighteen years of age … unless the accused took reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the person.”

Those convicted of child luring will have their names added to provincial and federal sex offender registries. On a personal level, even being charged with this offence can bring a weighty social stigma.

Courts have denounced child luring

Judges have condemned the act of child luring, as these judgments show. In a 2013 Alberta Court of Appeal decision, the judge wrote: “Luring is dangerous, and as the Crown points out, serious. It involves pre-meditated conduct specifically designed to engage an underage person in a relationship with the offender, with the goal of reducing the inhibitions of the young person so that he or she will be prepared to engage in further conduct that is not only criminal but extremely harmful. Parliament has recognized that the internet has infinitely expanded the opportunity for predators to attract and ensnare children. The anonymity of the internet allows the predator to hide his or her true identity, to mask predatory behaviours through seemingly innocuous but persistent communication, and to count on victims letting their guard down because the communication occurs in the privacy and supposed safety of their own homes. A proportionate sentence for internet luring must recognize the serious nature of this offence.”

A 2018 B.C. provincial court judgment offered these thoughts: “The effects of internet luring on a child victim can be catastrophic, and the seriousness of the offence is recognized in the case law, as ‘presenting a high risk of causing both physical and mental harm to the potential child victims.’ The offender’s culpability is high given the planning and premeditation that is inherent in these types of offences. The case law is comprised of two types of cases: those with actual child victims, and those with apparent child victims (usually undercover officers). Where there is an actual child victim, the case law recognizes this as significantly more harmful.”

Isn’t there an expectation of privacy on the internet?

In 2019, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruled that sexually explicit online messages exchanged with a minor are not private and can be used in undercover police operations without a warrant. According to court documents, police created a Facebook profile of a 14-year-old girl. That led to a two-month long exchange of messages and emails, including a sexually explicit photo with an adult, who was arrested at a park where he had arranged to meet who he thought was a girl. He was charged with child luring, but a lower court found that his s.8 right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure under the Charter of Rights of Freedoms had been infringed by the police. When the case reached the SCC, the majority agreed the man was guilty of child luring, with one judge writing, “adults cannot reasonably expect privacy online with children they do not know.”

Online communication leads to child luring

I know of a case where an adult was charged with child luring after he created a fake profile on the app Yellow (now called Yubo), which entices children to join by stating they can make friends “from your local community or across the world and go social in no time through live chat.”

According to a statement from the internet security firm McAfee, apps like this are “being called the ‘Tinder for teens,’ because it’s designed much like the popular Tinder dating app for adults. Like Tinder, Yellow has left-right swipe to browse profiles, photo sharing, and private chat capabilities.”

According to Statistics Canada information, “Canadian youth are engaging in behaviours that may raise their risk of online sexual exploitation; potentially risky behaviours such as sharing personal information over the Internet, emailing or posting photos online, chatting online with strangers, and visiting adult-content websites and chat rooms.”

As an example, StatsCan cites a study of approximately 5,200 fourth to 11th graders, drawn from every province and territory. It found that “about three in 10 youth indicated that they would provide their real names and addresses to sign-up for free email or create a profile on a social networking site, while 16% indicated that they had intentionally visited a pornographic website and 9% had visited an adult chat room during their current school year.”

According to a Department of Justice (DoJ) document, sexual violations involving children are on the rise. It adds, “this increase is primarily attributable to significant increases in incidents of luring a child via computers … reports of 'luring a child' increased from 511 incidents in 2010 to 1,310 incidents in 2017.”

Pandemic led to more luring

Since the COVID-10 pandemic began, there have been “record-breaking reports of child luring and online sexual exploitation,” according to a news report. It states that there has been an 88 per cent increase in reports of online predators, who connect with youth through social media and live stream platforms such as Snapchat, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger and Omegle.

The story adds that adolescents are being lured to join live chats and then recorded without their consent, with videos and pictures ending up on adult pornography sites. A police officer interviewed in the story says that when investigators scour through pictures and videos looking for victims, unless a teen has reported they are under age, there is no way to discern a 15-year-old from an 18-year-old.

Taxi driver charged with luring

A 71-year-old man was sentenced to seven months in jail after pleading guilty to child luring, according to a news report, which states that he exchanged 775 text messages over nine days with an undercover police officer who was pretending to be a 15-year-old girl.

The man came to the attention of police after a 15-year-old girl reported that the man was offering free taxi rides to girls and buying them alcohol and food, according to the news report. The man was arrested outside a coffee shop, where he had arranged to meet someone he thought was 15 years old, though it turned out to be an undercover officer.

I can help those charged with this offence

Those convicted of child luring could be imprisoned for 14 years. Don’t take that chance. Contact me for a free consultation, in French or English. Once I have the details of your case, I will be able to suggest what will be your best defence.