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Missing and Exploited Children Training Conference (MECC): Speakers & Presentations

Over the three-day conference, attendees of MECC 2019 heard from leading professionals in the field of missing and exploited children and the lessons they’ve learned on the ground in recent high profile cases — outlined below.

Details for MECC 2020 speakers and presentations will be available in early 2020.

Expert Speakers

Dr. Sharon Cooper

As a forensic and developmental pediatrician, Dr. Sharon Cooper has decades of experience evaluating and treating children who have been sexually abused. She provides multidisciplinary training in all forms of child maltreatment to health care providers, law enforcement, attorneys, judges, therapists, chaplains, and social workers; lectures around the world; and has been an expert witness in more than 300 court cases.

Dr. Cooper is the CEO of Developmental and Forensic Pediatrics, PA. She works regularly with numerous national and international investigative agencies on internet crimes against children cases. She spent 21 years in the armed forces, retiring as a colonel. She holds a faculty position at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine and the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. Dr. Cooper has provided training and published chapters and articles for medical professionals regarding the age estimation of children depicted in sexual abuse images. She actively evaluates victims of all forms of child abuse, including sex trafficking.

In this Q&A session, Dr. Cooper shared her extensive expertise on how child sexual abuse material has changed what we know about child sexual abuse and about disclosure of abuse, the problems with relying on children to disclose, and how professionals working in all areas of child protection can use this information to change their plan of action with child victims.

Dr. Shabehram Lohrasbe

After completing medical school in India, Dr. Shabehram Lohrasbe moved to Canada to complete a residency in psychiatry at the University of British Columbia. Since 1984, he has been in continuous practice, principally in the criminal branch of medicolegal psychiatry. He also has a small private practice focused on people coping with major losses or terminal illnesses.

Dr. Lohrasbe sat on the British Columbia Review Board for six years and has provided treatment to offenders both in custody and in the community. He has assessed the mental state of several thousand individuals for criminal proceedings, and have testified on hundreds of occasions in the Courts of British Columbia, Yukon, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Alberta, and Nova Scotia. He has also testified in more than 150 Dangerous/Long Term Offender Hearings, a significant proportion of which involved men who have committed sexual offenses against children.

In his presentation, Dr. Lohrasbe talked about offender behaviour, including information on pedophilia and its relationship with sexual offending against children, the particular concerns regarding sexual sadism, the strengths and the limitations of risk assessments for online child sexual abuse offenders, and the types of behaviours that can indicate enhanced or reduced risk of re-offending.

Dr. Åsa Kastbom

Dr. Åsa Kastbom works as a physician with children, adolescents, and adults in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry department and the Adult Psychiatry department at the University Hospital of Linköping in Sweden. She is a consultant at the Trauma Unit for Abused Children, at the Adult Psychiatry Emergency Department, and at the Transsexual National Center. She specializes in the field of sexually abused and traumatized children and adults, and her research has covered sexual behavior in children. Dr. Kastbom is a founder and a member of the Child Protection Team at the University Hospital in Linköping and a well-known speaker in Sweden and at conferences internationally.

Accurate knowledge of child sexual development is important in many areas, and professionals are often supposed to be able to assess whether a sexual behavior falls into the realm of normality or not. In her presentation, Dr. Kastbom discussed research and clinical findings concerning common and uncommon sexual behaviors of children in different age groups. She provided information about which behaviors to consider normal and common, and which could be a sign of sexual abuse. Using cases, she also talked about how she and her team work with sexually abused children 2–18 years of age and focus on trauma-based cognitive therapy.

Rescue from the compound: Coordinated takedown of an armed exploitative father

In October 2016 the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) Northern Alberta Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit was contacted by Evansburg RCMP with information that one of the community’s most notorious residents was sexually abusing, making pornographic videos, and exploiting his daughter online. The suspect was well known to the detachment and the RCMP’s Behavioural Sciences Group as a knowledgeable “survivalist” with extensive weapons and police tactics training who was in possession of a large quantity of firearms and ammunition. His behaviour toward police had already led to enhanced security measures at the Evansburg RCMP detachment and in several police members’ homes.

This presentation provided an overview of the major file coordinated and investigated by ALERT ICE, highlighting the unique strategies and partnerships used to achieve success in a file ripe with extreme risk to the public, the victims, and law enforcement.

This case study detailed the collaboration that was necessary to successfully rescue five children and their mother from a physically, emotionally, and sexually abusive father with a survivalist disposition who had isolated his family in a rural compound fortified with over 40 firearms. As ICE investigators began collecting information, this investigation quickly evolved into one of the largest operations the Northern Alberta ICE Unit has ever led. Human resources included over 70 members from a dozen law enforcement units, multiple police services, and several civilian agencies.

Each speaker discussed the challenges faced and offered their perspectives on how the case was investigated, managed, and prosecuted.

Staff Sergeant Stephen Camp, Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) — Northern Alberta Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit

S/Sgt. Stephen Camp has been an Edmonton Police Service member for 28 years. He has worked in various roles throughout his career, including as a patrol sergeant, Hate Crime/Violent Extremism Unit investigator, detective in Criminal Investigation Section, detective in Homicide Section and, in the past three years, as the staff sergeant of ICE.

Corporal Cam Dunn, Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) – Northern Alberta Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit

Cpl. Cam Dunn has been a member of the RCMP since 2005 and has worked as a patrol officer and in various plain clothes investigational units. For the last three years, Cpl. Dunn has worked as an investigator in the Northern Alberta ICE Unit.

Keith Nicholls, Crown Prosecutor, Specialized Prosecutions, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General Crown Prosecution Service

Keith Nicholls has been a Crown counsel for more than a decade. He worked in General Prosecutions for eight years, prosecuting a range of offences, including family protection, sexual assault, robbery, and homicide. In 2015, Keith came to the ICE Unit and became the unit leader last year. Keith was involved with this file from the outset, which became the largest and most complex file this unit has prosecuted.

Suvidha Kalra, Crown Prosecutor, Specialized Prosecutions, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General Crown Prosecution Service

Suvidha Kalra began her career with the prosecution service in 2009 with Edmonton General Prosecutions where she prosecuted a wide range of offences, including domestic violence, aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault, and homicide. In 2014, Suvidha joined specialized prosecutions in the area of occupational health and safety, and then joined the ICE Unit in 2016. She was brought on to this file because of her specialized training in dealing with vulnerable and traumatized victims. She has a therapist certification in Hakomi therapy, a somatic based modality. The combination of both these practice areas has helped her create a framework for conducting prosecutions in a trauma informed manner. Suvidha has also trained other prosecutors about the impact of trauma on witness evidence, and best practices for obtaining evidence from traumatized victims.

Combatting human trafficking in rural communities

What’s a Romeo, and what is he doing in small town Ontario? This presentation broke down what human trafficking of youth in rural communities looks like, and how it differs from urban centres.

Using case examples, D/Sgt. Andrew Taylor of the Ontario Provincial Police’s (OPP) Anti-Human Trafficking Investigation Coordination Team spoke to the risks and recruitment of marginalized youth. He also discussed guidelines and best practices for investigators and child welfare staff to be aware of, and provided an overview of how the OPP is working with local service providers to encourage reporting and increase intervention opportunities.

Detective Sergeant Andy Taylor, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Anti-Human Trafficking Investigation Coordination Team

D/Sgt. Andy Taylor is the Supervisor for the OPP Anti-Human Trafficking Investigation Coordination Team. This team is responsible for all investigations involving human trafficking offences within Ontario, including investigation coordination between jurisdictions. It is also responsible for public education. Prior to this role, D/Sgt. Taylor served in the Orillia Detachment Criminal Investigation Unit and Street Crime Unit. In May 2018, he was the primary investigator assigned to a joint Barrie Police Service / OPP investigation into a 27-year-old double homicide, which concluded with two arrests for first-degree murder after a four-year investigative effort.

Back to basics: Identifying a school bus driver and his victims using traditional police tactics

In June 2017, an RCMP officer working out of the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre (NCECC) found several videos on the dark web of a school bus driver feeding elementary children cookies laced with semen. At first knowing only that they were filmed somewhere in Canada, the RCMP Victim Identification Unit worked to narrow the location of the suspect and 39 victims without the aid of EXIF, metadata, or IP addresses and relied solely on victim identification techniques and old-fashioned police work.

Once the RCMP identified two of the crime scene locations in the London area, the London Police Service (LPS) ICE Unit was notified. Providing key evidence surrounding the suspect, London Police quickly identified and arrested the offender.

This case study provided an overview of the work done by the NCECC and the LPS, from pinpointing the location of the videos to notifying and interviewing the families. Beyond the direct victims, significant planning and consideration was necessary to coordinate information sharing with multiple agencies and address the concerns of families whose children were on the bus but not shown in the videos.

Constable Krista Toner, RCMP National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre, Victim Identification Unit

Cst. Krista Toner has been an officer with the RCMP since 2004. Her first post was to Punnichy, Saskatchewan, where she specialized in child forensic sexual abuse interviews and investigations. In 2012, Cst. Toner joined the NCECC and is currently a member of the Victim Identification Unit.

She is a national instructor for INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database, trained in image comparison and analysis by the FBI, and received training at the Europol Combating Online Child Sexual Exploitation course in Europe. Cst. Toner is also a member of the Europol Victim Identification Task Force, working with the international ICE community to rescue and identify victims of sexual exploitation.

Detective Constable Sam Page, London Police Service, Internet Child Exploitation Unit

Sam Page is a Detective Constable and 17-year veteran of the London Police Service. Since 2015 he has been assigned to the Internet Child Exploitation Unit where he investigates crimes against children.

D/Cst. Page is also an online undercover officer who actively investigates online luring and, as the lead investigator in more than 130 investigations, has written more than 150 judicial orders. He has been responsible for training members of the London Police Service and civilians surrounding internet based crimes.

Abducted from the playground: Case study of an eight-year-old taken in Saskatchewan

In July 2017, an Amber Alert was issued after an eight-year-old girl disappeared from a playground in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Police obtained video surveillance that showed a man loitering near the playground for about 15 minutes and then grabbing the girl and putting her in the back of his vehicle. Reported missing to police at 3:30 p.m., the girl was located just before 9 p.m. that evening. Police identified and subsequently arrested Jared John Charles, who eventually plead guilty and was sentenced to eight years, 90 days for kidnapping and sexually assaulting the victim.

This case study outlined the series of events throughout the investigation, the Amber Alert considerations from the perspective of a smaller police service, the challenges associated with the initial investigation, and managing resources, emotions, and information. The lead investigators also discussed considerations for working with partner agencies, information from the Crown Prosecutor outlining the court process and challenges faced, and information from victim services from both the time of the event and moving forward with the family.

Constable Darren Androsoff

Cst. Darren Androsoff has been a member of the Prince Albert Police Service for eight years. Darren started his career in uniformed patrol and has been a member of the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) of the Prince Albert Police Service for the last three years. As part of CID, Darren has been involved in several homicide investigations as well as other complex investigations into serious violent crime. Darren was the primary investigator in this case.

Constable Tyson Morash

Cst. Tyson Morash is a police officer with the Prince Albert Police Service. He has been with the service for 17 years as a patrol member. Cst. Morash is recently retired from the Prince Albert SWAT team after serving 14 years, five of those as team leader. He is also an active volunteer in his home community of Prince Albert, sitting as chair of a non-profit rink board and coaching his children in their sporting activities. Cst. Morash was the first officer on scene and the arresting officer of the suspect in this case.

Befriending the bad guy

The internet is a vast and expansive arena littered with people who wish to sexually exploit children and revel in their accomplishments with like-minded individuals. Offenders have been exploring new ways to avoid law enforcement detection by using different chat programs, obfuscating their IP addresses, and altering their produced material. Despite the user’s operational security, it takes just one slip, one forgotten dating profile, or one forgotten password to lead to their true identity.

This presentation detailed the identification of a hands-on offender through global cooperation. Victim identification was essential in identifying both the offender and the victims. The presenter focused on how they prepared to interview the offender and the children, and the victim management steps taken throughout the investigation and court process. But the investigation did not stop there. Officers quickly realized there were more victims to find. Through a coordinated investigation involving international partners, victims around the world have been located.

Detective Constable Janelle Blackadar, Toronto Police Service

Det. Cst. Janelle Blackadar is a police officer with the Child Exploitation Section of the Toronto Police Service, and a member of the Ontario Provincial Strategy to Combat Child Exploitation. Det. Cst. Blackadar conducts various internet child exploitation investigations, but specializes as an online undercover officer acting in an undercover capacity both as a child and as an offender. Det. Cst. Blackadar has been conducting online undercover investigations since 2007 and has been teaching at a national and international level since 2008.

A Trauma Informed Approach to Witness Management

Interviewing a victim can lead to them experiencing the trauma again — but does that need to be the outcome? This presentation provided an overview of the impact of trauma on victims and witnesses, and covered practical applications of trauma-informed principles to help promote sensitive and compassionate interactions and to facilitate successful prosecutions.

Topic areas included: the neurobiology of trauma, building a safe relationship container, dealing with panic and dissociation, and somatically informed questioning.

Suvidha Kalra, Crown Prosecutor, Specialized Prosecutions, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General Crown Prosecution Service

Suvidha Kalra began her career with the prosecution service in 2009 with Edmonton General Prosecutions where she prosecuted a wide range of offences, including domestic violence, aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault, and homicide. In 2014, Suvidha joined specialized prosecutions in the area of occupational health and safety, and then joined the ICE Unit in 2016. She has a therapist certification in Hakomi therapy, a somatic based modality. The combination of both these practice areas has helped her create a framework for conducting prosecutions in a trauma informed manner. Suvidha has also trained other prosecutors about the impact of trauma on witness evidence, and best practices for obtaining evidence from traumatized victims.

Project Links: A seven-year-old posted on Craigslist

This horrific case of child sexual abuse — involving a stepfather selling access to a seven-year-old — was brought to light when the Hamilton Catholic Children’s Aid Society referred the girl to the Hamilton Police Service. Dubbed Project “Links”, this eight-month investigation started with a sexual violence disclosure from the young victim, which launched a Major Case Management investigative project into child sexual assault and internet exploitation.

This investigation would grow to involve resource support and assistance from multiple policing jurisdictions in Canada and the United States. The project team wrote 14 search warrants and 15 production orders, which led to the seizure of over 100 technology exhibits. Team members scoured through thousands of video images, text messages and email exchanges between the primary offender and his five identified co-accused, identifying multiple other sexual offenders in multiple jurisdictions.

This presentation highlighted:

  • Initial disclosure and the importance of every word the victim says
  • Warrants, humanitarian requests, and the obstacles faced with U.S. based companies
  • Examination and analysis of electronic evidence
  • Technological Crime Unit and the importance in the investigative process
  • Forensic interview of accused persons
  • Importance of provincial strategy partnerships in sharing of information
  • Court preparation and the gathering of evidence

Assistant Deputy Crown Janet Booy presented on the court process, including what obstacles were faced, what was done well, and what to expect. This case led to the successful prosecution of five men.

Detective John Tselepakis, Hamilton Police Service, Technological Crime Unit

Detective John Tselepakis has been a police officer for 16 years. He has worked in uniform patrol, the Criminal Investigation Branch, and the Homicide Unit, where he played an integral part in numerous investigations focusing on electronic evidence analysis and warrant drafting. In 2014, Sergeant Tselepakis was asked to oversee the Technological Crime Unit and became certified in the forensic examination of digital devices. He is qualified as an expert in online investigations and deemed an expert in the examination and analysis of digital evidence at both the Ontario Court of Justice and Superior Court. He has trained members in courses such as Major Case Management, General Investigative Techniques Course, Block Training, and new recruit presentations. Sergeant Tselepakis currently works in the Sexual Assault Unit and is working towards a Business Management Diploma from McMaster.

Michelle Wiley, Hamilton Police Service, Child Abuse Unit

Staff Sergeant Michelle Wiley has been an officer with the Hamilton Police Service for 21 years. She has worked in various areas such as BEAR (Break, Enter, Arson and Robbery) Unit, Criminal Investigations, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Child Abuse and is currently working in Uniform Patrol. During her career S/Sgt Wiley has also had the opportunity to be involved in undercover operations.

Janet Booy, Deputy Crown Attorney, Ministry for the Attorney General

Janet Booy has been with the Hamilton Crown Attorney’s office since 2005. She started her career working in social services before graduating with her LLB in 2001. After being called to the bar, she began working as an Assistant Crown Attorney in Kitchener, where she spent three years before transferring to Hamilton. She has been the Acting Deputy Crown Attorney for Hamilton since December 2016. Janet has prosecuted numerous major cases including homicides, dangerous offender applications, sexual assaults and child pornography cases.

Trailblazing restitution for victims of child sexual abuse material

For more than a decade, James R. Marsh and Carol Hepburn have been fighting for victims whose child sexual abuse was recorded and distributed online. Leaders in this area, they are two of only a handful of lawyers who take these cases; their clients are victims of some of the most prolifically traded series of child sexual abuse material on the internet.

The ongoing victimization their clients suffer from the continual distribution of their abuse images have untold and evolving impacts. As pioneers in the fight for compensation for victims of child sexual abuse material, James and Carol spent years advocating for changes in federal law which culminated in the Amy, Vicky and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act in the USA, which was signed into law on December 7, 2018. This long fought-for law, which passed with bi-partisan support during a highly contentious political time, will help ensure victims receive timely restitution to compensate for the harms suffered and support their recovery.

In this session Carol and James shared the significant lessons learned from their years of experience, including the long-term impacts for these survivors and what needs to change to better address their needs.

James R. Marsh

A University of Michigan Law School graduate, James represents victims of sex abuse in schools, colleges, churches, and government and military institutions; campus sexual assault and rape, online sexual exploitation; child sexual abuse material; sextortion, and revenge porn.

James founded the nationally recognized Children’s Law Center in Washington, DC, and is an experienced trial attorney, and frequent commentator, lecturer, and author on legal issues affecting children and victims of sex abuse and exploitation. He now leads Marsh Law Firm in New York which is recognized worldwide for its work helping sexually abused victims obtain justice and rebuild their lives with dignity and respect.

Carol Hepburn

Carol began her law practice in 1978 as a state prosecutor in Seattle, Washington where she prosecuted juvenile sex crimes, fraud, and street crime at trial and on appeal. In private civil practice she handled both family law and personal injury cases focusing on cases involving sexual and racial harassment, maritime injures, and professional negligence cases.

Since 2008 Carol has represented victims of child sexual abuse material crimes in criminal restitution proceedings and civil actions in the United States and Canada. She is an alum of the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College in Wyoming, an “invitation-only” college which teaches trial techniques and strategies. She continues to work with victim advocacy and multi-disciplinary groups in both the U.S. and Canada to bring a voice to the unique issues faced by victims of child sex abuse material.

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