The child pornography trial of once prominent Chilliwack realtor Ian Meissner heard closing submissions in BC Supreme Court on Feb. 15, and should wrap up on Feb. 21. (File)

Prominent B.C. realtor says he doesn’t know how child porn got on his computer

Closing arguments heard in Ian Meissner’s Chilliwack trial for accessing, possessing child porn

In an increasingly complex and interconnected digital world, is it possible to inadvertently download child pornographic images and accidentally connect to illicit child porn stories online?

Ian Robert Meissner’s defence counsel Martin Finch told a B.C. Supreme Court on Feb. 15 that not only was his client unaware he had child porn on his computer, but of the five images found, four cannot even be objectively defined as child pornography.

All that in addition to the fact that Meissner had a stellar reputation in the community, was a photographer with more than 150,000 other images on his computers, mean that Crown counsel did not prove its case against the 62-year-old.

“Crown hasn’t proved that the accused knew the impugned files were on his computer or that he intended to possess or access child pornography,” Finch told the court.

The matter of whether the four images constituted child pornography, Crown counsel Dorothy Tsui described them in some detail and countered that they most certainly are child porn.

Meissner’s defence in part was that in his capacity as a photographer, he used Picasa and occasionally engaged in file sharing in a way that involved bulk downloads. The implication being that it was here where he could have inadvertently downloaded illicit material.

Meissner is charged with two counts each of accessing child pornography and possession of child pornography from 2010 and 2012. There are two incidents connected to the case, but they are doubled because of a change in the legislation in between the time the incidents occurred with respect to these types of offences.

• READ MORE: Prominent realtor’s child porn trial starts in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack

The highly technical nature of the trial involved three local investigators involved in the execution of search warrants and with experience in child pornography cases, a civilian member of the RCMP’s Integrated Technological Crime Unit (ITCU), and an RCMP member of the ITCU.

The last three witnesses to testify on Feb. 13 in court for defence were character witnesses who spoke highly of Meissner’s status in the community, his charity work, and his employment as a prominent realtor who at one time was president of the local real estate board.

Friends and co-workers Stuart Muxlow, Carol Tichelman and Stephen Mullock, all testified that Meissner has an impeccable reputation among the hundreds of mutual friends they share, he is above reproach, and that he was well-regarded in the real estate community, in the Rotary Club, and on the other community groups he was involved in.

In closing arguments, Finch reiterated this reputation as an argument why these alleged criminal acts simply made no sense for someone like him.

“Why would a man who enjoyed such reputation in this community and who was utterly dedicated to the well-being of his community put at grave risk that ability to contribute and his standing and that of his family by engaging in involvement with something as notoriously vile as child pornography?” Finch asked.

In her closing submissions, Tsui responded simply that his good character does nothing to prove or disprove the evidence in the case, and the court sees first-time offenders of all types.

“Sometimes good people do bad things,” Tsui said.

The four images in question, were found on a computer owned by Meissner in “unallocated space,” which essentially means they had been deleted. Reiterating testimony from the civilian ITCU witness, Finch suggested that a non-expert user of the computer would have no way of accessing the images, but Justice Kathleen Ker pointed out that to get to the unallocated space, the computer user had to act.

“The don’t miraculously arrive in unallocated space,” Justice Ker responded to Finch. “They had to be in a file on the computer in order to be deleted.”

This was a point that Tsui said during closing submissions where Ker “hit the nail on the head.”

“The images must have been on the computer for them to get into unallocated space,” Tsui said. “They don’t delete themselves.”

Also found on Meissner’s devices were weblinks to nine stories that meet the test for child pornography from an alternative sex website, a site that also includes many non-child pornographic stories. (Written text involving child sex is illegal in Canada, but is protected under free speech legislation in the U.S.)

On the subject of just how few images were found on his devices, Finch told the court the discovery via search warrant was of the “needle in the haystack variety” given Meissner had as many as 170,000 digital images on various devices.

Responding to that, Tsui said the “needle in the haystack” does nothing to determine guilt or innocence in this case given the broad spectrum in the number of child porn images found from case to case. Finch also had argued that if Meissner were actually interested in child porn, the meticulous photographer would have had a plethora of images in organized folders on his computer as he did with all his other photographic material.

Tsui disputed this.

“We need to remember that when we are dealing with child pornography images we are dealing with illicit materials,” she said. “How he collects or organizes legitimate photographs doesn’t necessarily mean he would collect and organize illicit materials in the same way.”

Also found on Meissner’s computer were links to a number of sexually explicit stories with highly suggestive titles involving underage girls posted to a site entitled “Alt Sex Stories Text Repository.”

He claimed he stumbled across the website while researching publishing an e-book of photography, something Tsui argued “makes little sense” because the website is a repository of sex-related stories and has nothing to do with publishing e-books let alone photography.

The trial began Feb. 4 and almost wrapped up with closing submissions in the afternoon of Feb. 15. Finch is allowed one last reply to Tsui, but time ran out on Feb. 15 so that is scheduled for Feb. 21.

Crown wrapped up its case by suggesting the defence argument for acquittal relied on a series of unfortunate coincidences that were simply too unlikely to be believed.

“The only logical conclusion, the only reasonable inference is that Ian Meissner knowingly possessed and accessed the child pornographic materials locate at his work computer, his home computer and his external hard drive.”

Justice Ker will make a decision on the case in late March or early April.

• READ MORE: Child porn trial for prominent Chilliwack realtor set for the fall


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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