Court hears Sask. man paid women to stream child sex abuse

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June 19, 2017 - 10:33am Updated: June 19, 2017 - 7:08pm
A sentencing hearing  for  27-year-old Phillip Chicoine, who pleaded guilty to more than 40 child pornography charges, was held on June 19, 2017.
File photo/650 CKOM
A sentencing hearing for 27-year-old Phillip Chicoine, who pleaded guilty to more than 40 child pornography charges, was held on June 19, 2017.

Warning: this story contains details about a child pornography investigation that may be disturbing to some readers.

Horrific details emerged in court during sentencing arguments for a Saskatoon man who pleaded guilty to various child pornography offences earlier this year.

Philip Chicoine, 27, was arrested at his parents' home in February and charged with 19 offences. Investigators later added 44 more charges. He pleaded guilty back in April to 40 counts, including possessing, distributing and making child pornography. The Crown indicated the remaining 23 charges would be stayed at the conclusion of sentencing.

On Monday, the Crown began presenting its arguments for what sentence Chicoine should get, arguing that he should be sentenced to 17 years in prison.

The prosecutor began by giving a brief chronology of Chicoine’s offences, then detailing the contents of hard drives and computers seized by police when Chicoine was arrested.

Investigators found that along with collecting child pornography files, Chicoine was paying women in the Philippines and Romania to live-stream or record themselves committing sex acts with their own underage children, siblings or other family members.

Between 2011 and 2017, Chicoine paid the women some $23,000. Most of that money, about $19,000, was paid to women in the Philippines.

Chicoine took screen captures of the streams as they played on his computer, later trading the images with other offenders he communicated with online.

The Crown presented samples of those chat logs in court, included a chilling exchange in which Chicoine told another child pornographer that he was going to be an uncle soon, and that he “...hoped they have a girl."

In another conversation, Chicoine said he wanted to one day find a victim to abuse in Saskatoon. The chat logs also showed Chicoine sharing a fantasy about wanting to mutilate a little girl.

Court then saw logs of Chicoine's chats with children, including him giving instructions during streamed sex acts.

In one chat, a victim told Chicoine she was depressed and contemplating suicide. Chicoine asked her to record herself if she went through with it and send him the video.

Another chat showed Chicoine talking to someone he believed to be a 13 or 14-year-old girl from Saskatoon. The Crown noted that the messages likely came from someone older. Nonetheless, the chat logs made it clear that Chicoine thought he was talking to an underage girl as he tried to arrange a meeting and discussed performing sex acts with her.

Through all of this, Chicoine sat nearly motionless in the prisoner's box in the courtroom, staring into the middle distance in front of him with his head slightly bowed. Three people, presumably members of Chicoine's family, sat about 3 or 4 metres away holding hands.

Lead investigator presents evidence for Crown

RCMP Cst. Jared Clarke with the Saskatchewan Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit was the lead investigator on Chicoine's case. He was called to testify for the Crown.

A six-year ICE veteran who served on over 200 investigations, Clarke still had to pause during his testimony to wipe away tears and collect himself as he told court about the grisly images and videos he had to go through and catalogue as part of building the case.

Clarke then presented a sample of Chicoine’s collection to the court, giving a brief description of each video clip and image before it was played on monitors visible to the judge, Crown and defence.  

Clarke explained that Chicoine's collection mostly focused on little girls ranging from infants to about 12 years old.

About a quarter of Chicoine's collection was what Clarke termed "hurtcore," a genre of child pornography focused on showing children in pain as they are abused.

Clarke said Romanian authorities were able to wrap up that portion of the investigation, with all children in that country now safe.

He said investigators were still working to identify others Chicoine spoke with using various chat services.

Clarke said there was particular difficulty with the Philippines side of the case as typical investigation techniques, such as posing as offenders, would place children at risk.

He said police are working to connect with authorities in the Philippines to set up a process that won't put victims in danger of further abuse.

Under questioning from Chicoine’s lawyer, Clarke acknowledged that Chicoine admitted to his crimes fairly early on after being arrested, and then directed police to a smartphone with more files on it that wasn't found during the initial search of his parents’ home.

Clarke said Chicoine also co-operated with police in trying to help identify abusers and victims depicted in his collection.

With Clarke’s testimony wrapped up, the judge adjourned further sentencing arguments to June 29. 

Twitter @BrynLevy