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St. Albert man who tried to spy on ex gets conditional discharge

Pleads guilty to voyeurism after installing cameras in victim's house
St. Albert provincial court.

A St. Albert man who secretly installed cameras in his ex-girlfriend’s house has received a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to voyeurism.

In November 2022, the man, who the Gazette cannot name because of a publication ban, and his partner were going through a separation and living in different homes.

While his ex-girlfriend was away, the man volunteered to watch her pets. He used this opportunity to install cameras in her house, including one camera in her bedroom.

The girlfriend discovered the cameras shortly after returning home.

Crown prosecutor Crystal Robertson argued for 12 months of probation and a criminal record. The man’s lawyer, Adam Chadi, sought a conditional discharge, which would encompass 12-18 months of probation with no criminal record.

Surreptitiously recording an intimate partner, especially in a place such as a bedroom where intimacy can occur, is an act of violence, Robertson said.

“It’s a serious violation of the privacy of the victim,” she said.

Matters of intimate partner violence should entail a criminal record, she said.

She argued the steps it took for the man to purchase and install the cameras amounted to planning and shows he did not commit the crime impulsively.

However, she also noted the man lives a very “pro-social” life, with strong ties to the community and no criminal record.

Chadi pointed to the man’s successful work history including a business he recently launched, his many volunteer efforts and his successes seeking counselling and treating his drinking problem.

The cameras did not record and store footage, Chadi noted. Instead, they could be used only to live stream video.

The man’s attempt to set up the cameras “wasn’t particularly sophisticated,” Chadi said. The man left sawdust on the floor in areas where he installed the cameras. His planning was “low level,” Chadi said.

The cameras were in the house for only one day, and the man did not install the cameras “for a sexual purpose.” The man didn’t seek any personal gain, Chadi said.

Justice John Maher pushed back on this.

“It was to snoop on his ex, to find out what she was doing, or to try and find out what she was doing in her bedroom, probably to see if she was involved in sexual activity with someone else,” Maher said. The man wanted to gain knowledge of the victim’s life, he said.

The man told the court that he had “profound regret” for his actions.

In the couple’s nearly decade-long relationship, the man had worked to support the victim while she was in school, he said.

The couple’s financial debts created conflict and questions of fidelity, which caused him to seek “solace in indulging in alcohol.”

“I acted out of pure emotion,” he said.

The victim, her mother and two friends submitted victim impact statements, but they asked that the statements not be read out loud in the courtroom.

Justice Maher said the man’s actions could be characterized as intimate partner violence.

However, the man did not threaten the victim with violence and didn’t hurt her physically.

The man’s motivation wasn’t sexual in nature, he said.

Maher noted the offence was uncommon, a factor that works in a defendant’s favour when seeking a conditional discharge.

Although the man wanted to “gain knowledge” about his ex’s life, Maher found no evidence that the man would use that knowledge for “nefarious purposes,” and called the attempt to install the cameras “a bungled job.”

Having a criminal record would interfere with the man’s business ventures, and Maher saw a reasonable possibility the man’s business could be successful.

Canada’s trade balance depends on the success of both small and large businesses, he said.

Maher sentenced the man to two years of probation and gave him a conditional discharge.

He also gave the man 80 hours of community service.

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