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School officials recently made police aware that students were taking nude photos of themselves and sharing them through text messaging, e-mail and Blackberry Messenger. Upon further investigation, police learned of over 50 students involved in sharing hundreds of photos.

“Young people may not be aware that what they are doing is actually a very serious criminal offence,” says Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Peter McIsaac. “We want to help them understand the significance of their actions and the potential consequences, so we can make sure this activity stops.”

Any image showing a person under the age of 18 years exposing their breasts, sexual organs or anal region, or that shows any person under the age of 18 to be engaged in explicit sexual activity is considered child pornography. It is illegal to manufacture, possess, distribute and/or access child pornography, offences which lead to a minimum penalty of 45 days to 1 year. If sentenced as an adult, a conviction would also mean being placed on the National Sex Offender Registry for a minimum of 10 years.

Police approached the school board with a plan for education and awareness, and together the two groups will be providing information to parents and students. Police have drafted a letter outlining the seriousness of the offences and potential penalties; school principals will be distributing this letter to parents, in addition to hosting student assemblies with presentations from police. School Liaison Officers will be reinforcing the message through smaller classroom presentations and coaches will be speaking to members of school sports teams. 

“ The Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board is working with the Cape Breton Regional Police Service to support the students and parents so that the public can understand the seriousness of these actions,” said Charles Sheppard, Coordinator of School Services for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. “We will engage a mandate of education to assist the school community in comprehending the nature and significance of the present situation.”

Police advise young people to delete any such digital photographs they may have in their possession and discontinue sharing these types of photos. Manufacturing, possessing, distributing and accessing child pornography are serious offences and will be prosecuted as such.

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