It is the type of crime that has exploded in recent years: One where a few clicks of a mouse or keyboardstrokes can have long-lasting -- even deadly -- consequences.

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It is the type of crime that has exploded in recent years: One where a few clicks of a mouse or keyboardstrokes can have long-lasting -- even deadly -- consequences.

Now two Manitoba teen brothers have been sentenced to 16 months in jail for one of the most extreme cases of cyberbullying and online sexual abuse ever discovered in the province.

"The bullying and sexual exploitation of children, via social media, represents a new and disturbing phenomenon in our society," provincial court Judge Don Slough said at the start of a written decision released Thursday.

The victim, a 14-year-old girl, first had contact with the two accused -- both minors at the time -- through Facebook and other social-media platforms. She had been referred to the brothers by another teen, who told the girl he knew where she lived and would "do something to her" if she didn't send him nude pictures.

Over a period of several days -- and thousands of lines of online text messages -- the brothers threatened her into taking and sending explicit photos of herself. Although they lived in the same small Manitoba community, they didn't actually know each other or meet face to face.

"The communication was intense and relentless, occurring day and night," Slough said in handing down his decision in Dauphin. "The accused, acting in tandem, alternatively flattered and abused the victim, demanding progressively more explicit images; instructing the victim as to what sexual acts she was to perform and digitally record."

The brothers promised the girl they would keep the images to themselves.

"They broke this promise, distributing explicit images, via social media, to various people within their common community, including people with whom the victim went to school. The images included her face, as well as her breasts and vagina," said Slough.

The girl's parents got suspicious in January 2014 when her behaviour and demeanour changed dramatically, court was told. They demanded to see her iPod and found some of the messages the boys had sent her. They immediately contacted RCMP.

Both accused were charged in May 2014 with possession of child pornography, distribution of child pornography, invitation to sexual touching and transmitting sexually explicit material to a child for a photo of a penis they sent her.

"The accused, having identified a vulnerable victim, subjected her to a relentless attack. The only apparent motivation for this attack being a desire to exploit, demean and humiliate the victim," said Slough.

Both accused told police what they did "was fun, but now feel it was stupid." They have been assessed as high risks to reoffend.

The mother of the victim filed an impact statement with court, saying her teen daughter has suffered extreme emotional distress and "has transformed from a happy child into someone who was deeply troubled."

"Because the accused, using social media, sent images of the victim to the victim's friends and other members of the community, this incident is well-known in the small town in which the victim resides. She has been called names at school. The victim's mother states the family feels profound violation and have lost their sense of safety and security," said Slough.

Slough gave the boys 16 months of closed custody, followed by eight months of community supervision and one year of supervised probation.

"For offences of this sort, it is important that other people, who might be tempted to become involved in such predatory activity, be warned that doing so will have significant consequences," said Slough. "That being said, the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act do not permit the imposition of a more severe sentence, solely for the purpose of deterring others."

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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