Judge orders Sask. man to pay $160,000 in damages to revenge porn victim

Judge orders Sask. man to pay 0,000 in damages to revenge porn victim

Warning: This story contains disturbing details.

It wasn’t enough for Daylan Heidel to upload nude pics and sex videos of his ex to internet porn sites with the caption “karma is a bitch.”

He went further, sharing the woman’s name and personal details, sometimes as a reward to other porn site users who agreed to re-post them.

One video would be viewed 1.5 million times.

Now, the Saskatchewan man has been ordered by a judge to pay the woman $160,000 in damages, the largest sum awarded in a revenge porn case in Canada thus far. For comparison, a Manitoba woman was awarded $60,000 in damages earlier this year after her intimate photos were distributed without her consent, and an Alberta woman was awarded $155,000 last year.

Mental distress

The federal government criminalized the non-consensual distribution of nude pics and videos in 2015. Subsequently, several provinces — including Saskatchewan — amended privacy laws to make it easier for victims to take civil action and sue perpetrators for compensation. There have still only been a handful of such judgments across the country.

Court of King’s Bench Justice Krista Zerr found that Heidel’s behaviour was “flagrant and outrageous” and “intended to cause [the woman] harm.” Zerr concluded Heidel intentionally inflicted mental distress by maliciously posting the woman’s name and personal information alongside her intimate images on porn sites in a way that “unleashed a torrent of degrading, humiliating and frightening content directed at [the woman].”

Judge orders Sask. man to pay $160,000 in damages to revenge porn victim
‘Revenge porn’ is the act of maliciously distributing intimate images of an ex-partner without their consent. Several Canadian provinces have amended legislation to allow victims to seek financial compensation from perpetrators. (Igor Stevanovic/Shutterstock)

A publication ban protects the woman’s identity. Her evidence before the court described constant fear and anxiety.

“I would search the internet at all hours of the night in order to find images of myself and report them so that they could be removed before others would see them,” she said.

Screengrabs presented as evidence showed her images on 10 pornographic websites.

The $160,000 was for general and aggravated damages. The judge did not order Heidel to pay punitive damages, which are intended to punish the perpetrator, denounce his conduct, and deter others, because Heidel had already served a “significant jail sentence,” said Zerr.

Jail time

In late 2019, Heidel pleaded guilty to the non-consensual distribution of intimate images of four women between January 2015 and July 2019. He was initially sentenced to 18 months in jail. He later pleaded guilty to additional charges related to two more women from the same time period and received an additional nine-month jail term that he served in the community.

The woman who sued Heidel is one of the six victims.

“It’s the first case of its kind in Saskatchewan, so it’s important from that standpoint,” said the woman’s lawyer, Sean Sinclair.

Sinclair successfully argued that Heidel was liable not only under the province’s Privacy Act, but also for public disclosure of private facts, a common law tort not previously recognized in Saskatchewan, and for intentional infliction of mental distress.

“This has been obviously a traumatic experience for [the victim]. I think that she has been incredibly resilient and has displayed a lot of courage in coming forward. I think getting this decision brings a measure of closure,” said Sinclair, a lawyer with the Robertson Stromberg law firm in Saskatoon.

Bankruptcy

In an affidavit, Heidel told the court he’d been high on cocaine whenever he posted online. He said he took “full responsibility” for his actions.

“For several years, I have struggled heavily with alcoholism and addictions. That struggle has taken me down a very dark path where my judgment and rational thinking were seriously compromised,” he said.

Heidel’s defence lawyer, Ron Piché, told CBC News that it’s unlikely his client would actually pay $160,000 because “you can’t squeeze blood out of a stone.”

“He certainly accepts responsibility, but at the same time he simply may seek his redress through bankruptcy court,” said Piché. If Heidel files for bankruptcy, it could discharge any debt arising from the civil lawsuit.

Judge orders Sask. man to pay $160,000 in damages to revenge porn victim
In his defence, Daylan Heidel suggested the woman ‘voluntarily assumed an inherent degree of risk in sharing the photos.’ (Shutterstock)

Piché has filed a notice of appeal, citing several issues with the decision. Among them, he disagrees with the fact this case was decided summarily by the judge, without going to trial.

“Some of the awards of the damages were based on what we consider pretty scant evidence that [the victim] had suffered profound mental infliction of harm,” said Piché. He wanted further exploration of the new privacy legislation and torts, the high dollar value placed on the damages and whether the woman shared some responsibility by sharing the photos.

In court, Heidel conceded that the woman expressly warned him not to post the pictures and videos. The judge also said Heidel’s guilty plea in the criminal case was “a formal admission that [the woman] did not consent.”

The judge said she was satisfied that affidavits and cross-examination transcripts provided sufficient facts without a trial and that a “just result” could be reached with the expedited, less expensive summary judgment.

‘The boogeyman behind your back’

Jill Arnott, executive director of the University of Regina Women’s Centre, said she was “heartened” that the judge didn’t accept arguments that the victim was negligent in any way.

“The defendant did try to suggest that the victim was complicit in her own victimization and that’s sort of the height of victim shaming and victim blaming and, you know, it’s still prevalent,” said Arnott, adding that the decision sends a strong statement that such behaviour won’t be tolerated.

Judge orders Sask. man to pay $160,000 in damages to revenge porn victim
Jill Arnott, executive director of the University of Regina Women’s Centre, said she was ‘pleasantly surprised’ to see a Saskatchewan judge award $160,000 in damages to a revenge porn victim. (Brian Rodgers/CBC)

Arnott said posting intimate images on the internet without consent is a crime that “has no end date” and, therefore, inflicts long-lasting mental distress.

“It’s like having the boogeyman behind your back all the time and just never knowing when he’s going to jump out. And to live in that kind of state is extremely, you know, distressing and difficult and traumatizing, right? That heightened alert is not something that’s good for the body,” said Arnott.

She applauded the $160,000 award.

“We live in a culture that is really about putting a price on things. And so, in this way, this helps to hammer home that message that actually there is a price, an actual price to be paid for harming another human being in this way.”


Support is available for anyone who has suffered sexual assault or other forms of domestic abuse. 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. 

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