A defence lawyer argued that a proposed 12-year sentence for a man convicted of blackmailing young girls to produce child pornography was excessive under the circumstances.

Cahlii Smith, from St George’s, was found guilty last year of a string of offences, including two counts of extortion, three counts of making child pornography, one count of distributing child pornography and one count of accessing child pornography.

While prosecutors argued this month that Smith should serve a total of 12 years behind bars for the offences, Elizabeth Christopher, counsel for Smith, cautioned the court against upsetting precedent.

Ms Christopher said that while there was little in the way of precedent for blackmail cases in Bermuda, the Crown’s proposed starting point of eight years was arbitrary.

She told the Supreme Court that a social inquiry report found that her client had a low risk of reoffending and noted that in the years since the offences took place, no additional allegations had come to light.

“That should be a sufficient indication to the court that this defendant can be considered to be at low risk of reoffending,” she said.

“Since 2016, some eight or nine years ago, there’s no suggestion that he has been involved in anything like this.”

Ms Christopher added that while he was under additional scrutiny after the allegations, he would continue to be monitored now that he had been convicted.

“No doubt with a conviction, he will be under infinitely more scrutiny from family, friends, police and everybody because it’s all over the newspaper,” she said.

Ms Christopher acknowledged that the delays in the matter coming to trial had an impact on the victims, but she said that her client was not the cause of the delays and disputed the suggestion that he had been “living his best life”.

“He was labouring under imminent proceedings for quite a long time,” she said.

During his trial, the court was told by two victims, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, that they had been contacted by someone on Facebook who claimed to be a hacker and had accessed intimate images of them on their phones.

The purported hacker then demanded that they produce pornographic images and videos or he would release the materials he had on social media.

The girls complied with the demands for months, but the court heard that the materials were released in 2015 after they stopped responding to him.

Both girls were under the age of 16 at the time.

Audley Duncan, for the Crown, described Smith’s actions as “repugnant”, noting that his blackmail campaign lasted months and included multiple child victims.

He called for a nine-year jail term for the charge of distributing child pornography, along with five-year sentences for manufacturing child pornography and sentences of eight years and six months for the offences of extortion.

Mr Duncan said that those sentences should run concurrently, but he argued that the charge of accessing child pornography was separate and should carry a three-year prison term to run consecutive to the other sentences.

He noted that 106 images and 89 videos of child pornography were found on a laptop linked to Smith and that the demand for child pornography fuels incidents of abuse.

“I don’t think that 12 years is by any means an excessive sentence under what was done to these children,” he said.

Sentencing submissions are scheduled to continue on Thursday morning.

Royal Gazette