WARNING: This article contains details of sexual extortion and may affect those who have experienced it or know someone affected by it.
The 44-year-old Dutch man convicted of sexually extorting a B.C. teenager who died by suicide a decade ago was sentenced to 13 years in prison Friday.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Martha Devlin asked Aydin Coban to stand as she read out her final decision, after detailing the arguments presented by the Crown and the defence and explaining her deliberation process.
The sentence is longer than the 12 years suggested by the Crown, but Devlin said Coban’s conduct and the pleasure he took in Todd’s escalating distress called for “sharp rebuke.”
Coban’s defence lawyers had asked for a two-year sentence.
Coban was convicted in August of extortion, two counts of possession of child pornography, child luring and criminal harassment against Amanda Todd.
Todd’s story of being exploited online from November of 2009 to February of 2012 travelled around the world. She died by suicide on Oct. 10, 2012, after uploading a nine-minute video detailing the abuse she experienced and how it had affected her life in a series of flash cards.
Standing outside the courthouse Friday afternoon, Amanda’s mother Carol Todd described the moment she heard the sentence.
“It was just a breathtaking moment,” she said. “As breathtaking as Aug. 6 when I heard the five guilty counts.”
During sentencing, Devlin detailed how Coban used 22 different aliases to chat with Amanda Todd on Facebook, YouTube and Skype, demanding web cam shows. He sent her more than 700 messages and made “persistent online threats,” according to Devlin.
Coban threatened to send images and videos of Todd in compromising positions to her friends and family.
“When Amanda refused to comply with his demands, Mr. Coban made good on his threats,” said Justice Devlin, detailing a series of threats Coban made through various aliases to both Todd, her family and her friends.
Coban posted and shared suggestive and pornographic images of Todd on Facebook, in YouTube comments and uploaded them to image hosting sites. He also used some of his alias accounts to pose as a young friend and a concerned adult in different instances, claiming to be worried about her behaviour online.
Devlin said while she didn’t find Coban’s behaviour to be the “dominating factor” in her suicide, as claimed by the Crown, she did find that he caused “profound harm” that contributed to her mental health issues, depression and substance use.
“Ruining Amanda’s life was Mr. Coban’s expressly stated goal and was, sadly, one that he achieved,” she said.
‘Today is justice for Amanda,’ mom says
Ahead of the hearing, Carol Todd said her heart was pounding “a million beats per minute” waiting for the sentence, and that she feels her daughter has been granted her wish of helping other vulnerable young children.
“It has set case law precedents going forward for all other cases that might go to trial,” she said. “It sets the bar … and for those predators, who victimize children, hopefully they won’t get lenient sentences.”
Todd recounted the 13 years that have passed since Amanda was first victimized by Coban, and the 10 years since her daughter’s death. She said she’s persevered to make sure Amanda’s story was shared with the world and that as many people as possible are aware of so-called “sextortion” and online predators.
“Today is justice for Amanda — justice for all children,” she said.
“I can’t bring Amanda back. But with Amanda’s story we can save others.”
Todd said the sentencing doesn’t necessarily bring a sense of closure to her devastating loss, but it does allow her to begin a new chapter as an advocate. With the trial completed, she plans to focus more of her energy on raising awareness about sexual exploitation online and working to prevent other young people from being made victims.
Accountability is ‘encouraging,’ advocates say.
In a statement, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (CCCP) said its “hearts are with the Todd family” following Friday’s sentencing.
The CCCP said “it is encouraging that the Canadian justice system has done its part to make the offender accountable for these offences,” adding that it hopes more of these types of offenders will see the same consequences.
“Canadian children are increasingly being preyed upon in digital environments, both here and abroad,” reads the statement. The CCCP says Canadians “owe it to Amanda Todd” to demand regulation and safety standards for the online services and platforms that children use every day.
Coban was extradited to Canada to face trial and is already serving an 11-year sentence handed down in the Netherlands for similar crimes against different victims.
Devlin said the 13-year term will be served after Coban’s Dutch sentence ends in August 2024.
The B.C. Prosecution Service issued a statement after the sentencing saying that under the terms of Coban’s surrender, he will be returned to the Netherlands to serve out his current sentence.
The court heard he must be returned within 45 days, and he will also serve his Canadian sentence in the Netherlands.
In her conclusion, Devlin warned young people about the dangers of using the internet and the ease to which adults can conceal their identity when interacting with vulnerable children.
Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or the Ending Violence Association of Canada database. If you’re in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.
If you or someone you know is struggling, here’s where to get help:
This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you’re worried about.