A convicted human trafficker is facing new charges after allegedly threatening his "vulnerable, traumatized" teenage victim in full view of a Halifax courtroom.Owen Gibson-Skeir, 21, mouthed "I'll see you," and made a shooting gesture with his hand at the 15-year-old girl in a Halifax courtroom Wednesday, Crown attorney Catherine Cogswell said Thursday.
Gibson-Skeir, the first person convicted of human trafficking in Nova Scotia, has now been charged with intimidation of a justice participant and uttering threats."We protect our witnesses. People that co-operate with the criminal justice system — in particular a vulnerable, traumatized child and her family — we take them very seriously," Cogswell said.
The victim was 14 years old when Gibson-Skeir pimped her out at hotels and apartments in the Halifax area from January to March 2016. At the time, a police officer said she was one of the youngest girls forced into prostitution in Halifax in decades. Gibson-Skeir took all the proceeds, beat her and had sex with her, Cogswell said.
Gibson-Skeir, the first person convicted of human trafficking in Nova Scotia, has now been charged with intimidation of a justice participant and uttering threats. (CBC)He pleaded guilty Wednesday to sexual assault and two human trafficking charges: exercising control and directing the movement of a child and materially benefiting from a child.
'With his hand, he made the sign of a gun and repeatedly fired at her with his thumb.'- Catherine Cogswell, Crown attorneyCogswell said Gibson-Skeir sat quietly in court during Wednesday's proceeding. She read the facts of the case, and Gibson-Skeir did not object. But when sheriffs were leading him out of the courtroom, he turned to the victim and threatened her.
"He mouthed to the victim 'I'll see you,' and then with his hand he made the sign of a gun and repeatedly fired at her with his thumb," said Cogswell in an interview Thursday.Cogswell said a Halifax investigator was immediately assigned to the case, and within a day Gibson-Skeir was back in court to face the additional charges.
'She is amazingly strong'
Cogswell said the victim collapsed into her arms, sobbing, after finding out Gibson-Skeir was pleading guilty to the human trafficking charges."It was a very emotional moment," Cogswell said. "She is amazingly strong, but she was incredibly relieved when I told her she didn't have to testify."
Gibson-Skeir was charged under a Criminal Code of Canada section brought in about 10 years ago. Cogswell said the charges can be difficult to prove.Cogswell said the girl met Gibson-Skeir on Facebook at a time when she'd started smoking marijuana, running away from home and cutting herself.
When he returned to his home province of Nova Scotia after living in Ontario, he convinced her to become involved in the sex trade.
He would 'slap her and call her stupid'
He advertised her online as a 19-year-old girl and made all the arrangements. She was only told where to go, or brought to the location, said Cogswell."All the money went to him. He didn't buy her anything in terms of clothes or anything of that nature. Just takeout food, cigarettes and weed," she said, adding the two had sex on at least two occasions.
"He would slap her and call her stupid. One time, he grabbed her by the throat and shoved her up against a wall and choked her to the point where she almost stopped breathing. It left his handprint on her neck.
"'The more that she pulled away, the more aggressive he got.'- Catherine Cogswell
Cogswell said the victim eventually began to distance herself from Gibson-Skeir. "The stronger she got and the more that she pulled away, the more aggressive he got," she said. Gibson-Skeir demanded a $10,000 exit fee and threatened to kill the girl's family, Cogswell said.
Cogswell said she plans to submit a joint recommendation with the defence for a sentence of seven years for the human trafficking and sexual assault charges, and she'll be seeking an additional two to three years for the two new charges.
Gibson-Skeir is scheduled to return to court Feb. 22.
Published: December 22nd, 2016