OTTAWA - Canada’s top court on Thursday effectively broadened people’s legal right to privacy protections by convicting a teacher of voyeurism for secretly filming female students at school.
Ryan Jarvis, 41, had been charged for using a camera concealed inside a pen to make of video recordings of 27 female students from 14 to 18 years old at a high school in London, Ontario, where he taught.
The 35 “pen camera” videos seized by police were recorded between January 2010 and June 2011.
They showed students wearing low-cut or close-fitting tops, and were taken from above or beside them seated in classrooms, computer labs or in school hallways, capturing “more of their breasts than would be visible if the students were recorded head on,” said court documents.
A trial judge had found that students had a reasonable expectation of privacy under the circumstances but acquitted Jarvis, citing insufficient evidence that he had made the recordings for a sexual purpose.
An appeals court had concluded the exact opposite on both points but upheld the acquittal.
The top court’s ruling was eagerly awaited due its implications for privacy protections in an era of new technologies such as mobile phones with cameras permeating public spheres.
In overturning the appeals court decision, the Supreme Court said “there is no doubt” that the students had a “reasonable expectations of privacy.”
“A student attending class, walking down a school hallway or speaking to her teacher certainly expects that she will not be singled out by the teacher and made the subject of a secretive, minutes-long recording or series of recordings focusing on her body,” said the ruling.
“The use of a cell phone to capture upskirt images of women on public transit, the use of a drone to take high-resolution photographs of unsuspecting sunbathers at a public swimming pool and the surreptitious video recording of a woman breast-feeding in a quiet corner of a coffee shop would all raise similar privacy concerns.”
The top court, in sending the case back to a lower court for sentencing, also noted that the accused’s role as a teacher put him in a position of trust with the students.
He faces up to five years in prison for voyeurism.