The defence is seeking a three-year prison sentence for a Halifax woman convicted of human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of a 16-year-old girl, calling the five-year minimum sentence under the Criminal Code "intolerable" and "an outrage" to his client's liberty.
At a sentencing hearing Monday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, lawyer Don Murray described his 43-year-old client, Renee Allison Webber, as a secondary figure in the crime who had tried to help the girl during a difficult time.
Webber was found guilty in September of trafficking a person under the age of 18, receiving material benefits from trafficking a person under 18, sexual exploitation and advertising sexual services.
Crown prosecutors are asking for a 6½ prison sentence.
The offences happened within a two-month period in late 2015 and "involved [the victim] engaging in having sex with men for money here in Halifax, Moncton [New Brunswick] and Toronto as well," said Crown prosecutor Cory Roberts.
Co-accused serving 3 years
Webber's co-accused, Kyle Leslie Pellow, was also charged with the same offences and pleaded guilty this past June. He is now serving a prison term of a little more than three years.
While the Crown argued Webber was an essential part of a joint criminal venture to traffic a teenage girl in the sex trade, Murray said his client played more of an administrative role.
He acknowledged Webber would routinely drive the victim to parking lots and hotels in order to perform sex acts for money. But it was Pellow, he argued, who profited from the encounters — not Webber.
Murray urged Justice Christa Brothers to ask herself: "Does the person I'm sentencing enjoy material gain from prostitution that was being engaged in, or did they merely play a role to facilitate the main criminal?"
Victim's relationship with mother strained
Murray said Webber had come to the aid of the girl, who was in the middle of a strained relationship with her mother.
He said the girl had been involved in prostitution before she met Webber.
"Webber had no more influence over the teen than her mother did," he told the court.
Brothers cautioned Murray on that point.
"We have to be careful about saying a 16-year-old chose to do this when a jury ruled she didn't," she said.
The judge also questioned whether the teen's difficult relationship with her mother would "diminish" the charge of sex trafficking or lessen the sentence imposed on Webber.
Two days have been set aside for the sentencing hearing. Roberts said he's not expecting a decision until some time in 2019.
Pellow and Webber had previously been charged with sexually assaulting the same 16-year-old girl.
However, Brothers stayed that charge in September because the alleged event happened in Moncton — outside the jurisdiction of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
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