R. v. Coban

The Cyber Blog IndiaCase Summary

Admissibility of social media statements in an online sextortion trial under the traditional exception to the hearsay rule

R. v. Coban
2021 BCSC 2297
In the Supreme Court of British Columbia
Docket 078463
Before Justice Devlin
Decided on November 25, 2021

Relevancy of the Case: Admissibility of social media statements in an online sextortion trial under the traditional exception to the hearsay rule

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • Coban, the accused, extorted an underage girl over the Internet from January 2009 to October 2012. The court scheduled a jury trial in January 2022.
  • The victim made multiple statements based on 51 electronic communications between 2010 and 2012, including Skype and Facebook messages, Facebook wall posts, and status updates.
  • The Crown filed the present application for the admissibility of these hearsay statements made by the victim AT.

Prominent Arguments by the Counsels

  • The Crown’s counsel submitted that her statements fell within the exceptions against hearsay deception. These statements revealed the state of her mind. The evidence was reliable, and it clearly showcased her fear. The counsel further submitted that most statements feel under the principled exception to hearsay. The statements were relevant to changes in sexual harassment over time and were further corroborated by evidence.
  • The accused’s counsel argued that extrinsic evidence indicated her feelings were more nuanced. These statements suggest that she sought both positive and negative attention, engaging in risky online behaviour. This challenged the accuracy of her emotional reaction to the extortion. Further, social media communications are inherently unreliable. She had the motivation to portray herself favourably. Inconsistencies in statements and external evidence further undermine the reliability of her claims. The counsel further argued that the victim aimed to improve her image on social media.

Opinion of the Bench

  • AT’s statements explain her state of mind. Therefore, they are all admissible under the exception to the hearsay rule.
  • The corroborative evidence rules out any alternative explanations for the material aspects of the statement. She made those statements naturally without any circumstances of suspicion.
  • A statement may generate attention and sympathy, but it does convey that the victim was not expressing the feeling of being harmed.

Final Decision

  • The court permitted the majority of the statements under the traditional exception to the hearsay rule.

Aditi Mangesh Sawant, an undergraduate student at NMIMS Kirit P Mehta School of Law, Mumbai, Arnav Kaman, an undergraduate student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab, and Ritesh Karale, an undergraduate student at Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai, prepared this case summary during their internship with The Cyber Blog India in January/February 2024.