Warning: This story contains content some readers may find disturbing.
The lead investigator in one of the most depraved cases of child pornography and sexual abuse in Saskatchewan history is calling the outcome a success.
On Tuesday, 27-year-old Philip Chicoine was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to 40 child pornography-related charges.
Earlier in the year, the Saskatoon man confessed to possessing, distributing and agreeing to make child pornography.
Court heard he met with impoverished women online in Romania and the Philippines and told them how to abuse their children while he watched a live stream.
“What set this one apart from a number of others was just the severity of his collection – the deviancy of it. It was some of the worst stuff I’ve ever seen,” said RCMP Cpl. Jared Clarke, the lead investigator on the case.
Chicoine paid $23,000 for photos, videos and the livestreaming of abuse, which was described as “hurt-core” – a genre focusing on pain being inflicted on victims.
Clarke, a member of Saskatchewan’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit, said Chicoine came across their radar in February after a single image of child pornography was uploaded to a Skype account.
The National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre in Ottawa flagged the activity and sent the ICE unit an email address, IP address and the locator of the internet connected to the abuse.
“We received that report and started tracking it down from there. Obviously it blew up quite a bit after that,” Clarke said.
Clarke explained investigators looked to service providers to find the name and address associated with the IP. After that, officers did surveillance and eventually obtained search warrants.
In Chicoine’s case, the searches led to the discovery of a massive collection of child pornography, with some involving infant victims.
“It really came down to a lot of hard work by the police team,” Clarke said. “Diving through the vast amounts of data and evidence that were on his computers that were seized to come up with the full picture.”
Clarke, who’s been with the ICE unit for six years, said Chicoine’s is the first case he’s seen where someone paid poor women to live stream the sexual abuse of children.
“This case caused me some issues. It forced me to go seek some help outside of policing,” he said.
Clarke said the biggest success in the case was working with law enforcement officials in the Philippines to help rescue nine of the child victims.
“Saving kids – that’s the end goal. In this case, we were able to do that,” he said. “We’ve got nine kids who are in a lot better spot now, and hopefully more to come.”
The investigation continues in the Philippines.
Ed Wilson is with International Justice Mission Canada (IJMC), an organization that works collaboratively with groups around the world to put an end to crimes like these.
“Our focus is protecting the poor from violence,” Wilson told Gormley Wednesday.
The group has a strong working relationship with Philippine National Police. In the last couple of years, focus has intensified on online child sexual exploitation.
Members of the IMJC are brought in to assist with investigations, and also provide any rescued children the supports they need afterwards.
“Make sure they’re in a safe and secure environment, experience the kind of care and safe rehabilitation that’s going to be needed,” he explained.
The IMJC were brought in to help locate any of Chicoine’s victims in the Philippines.
On Nov. 10, Saskatchewan ICE learned a woman was arrested as a result of police efforts in Northern Leyte Province, Municipality of MacArthur, in the Philippines.
Nine children, seven girls and two boys all between the ages of two and nine, were rescued.
Wilson said one of the rescuees is the child of the accused, and all but one of the others is related to the same family.
“The level of offence against the children in this case is extraordinary,” he said.
Wilson noted in online cases they’re seeing a much wider range of ages – with victims being as young as infants.
— With files from The Canadian Press.