A View from the Canadian Rockies or What Not to Present as Evidence of Online Paedophilia: R. v. Morelli, 2010 SCC 8, [2010] 1 S.C.R. 253

Don’t like what you see, tempted to jump to an ‘obvious’ conclusion-then don’t. Mr Urbain Morelli, an enthusiast of adult and child pornography, was at home when the computer technician came a calling. The technician noticed a webcam plugged into a VCR and pointed toward the man’s three-year-old daughter who was playing with toys nearby in a play pen. There were several links to adult and child pornography sites in the taskbar’s ‘favorites’ list of Mr. Morelli’s computer. When the technician returned the toys had been put away, the webcam was pointed in a different direction, the hard drive reformatted and the offending icons removed. The technician reported his concerns to a social worker, who told the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a search warrant was issued. Appealing in the Canadian Supreme Court Mr. Morelli maintained his rights were violated when police searched his computer.  Finding in his favor the Supreme Court noted that the technician saw suspicious links but had not seen pornographic images of children on the computer. In addition information used to obtain the warrant failed to mention that the child was fully clothed, there had been no signs of physical abuse evident to the technician and that there was only one living area in the home.  All in all the court found that a selective presentation of facts portrayed a less objective and more villainous picture than would have been the case had all the material information been presented.  The court heard it was plausible to suppose Mr. Morelli was using his VCR and webcam to videotape his daughter at play for posterity’s sake, not for purposes connected with child pornography. The suspiciously labeled links in were insufficient to characterize a person as an habitual child pornography offender. Since the majority of pornographic material observed was adult this suggested that the accused did not have a pronounced interest in child pornography.

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