Owen Gibson-Skeir, Nova Scotia’s first convicted human trafficker, arrives at provincial court in Halifax on Friday, March 31, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Seven-year term for trafficking girl, 14

Girl chose not to make a victim impact statement

HALIFAX — His name was Owen, but he called himself Staxx — street-slang for a pile of money.

She was 14 when she met him online, at a vulnerable time in her life, and they talked regularly through Instagram and Snapchat. Eventually, the 20-year-old took her to meet his parents in East Preston, N.S.

Not long after, however, the sexual assaults, threats, violence and prostitution started.

In Halifax provincial court Friday, Owen Ross Gibson-Skeir, now 21, was sentenced to seven years in prison.

He was arrested a year ago and pleaded guilty in December to three charges — two counts related to human trafficking and one count of sexual assault.

“There is nothing more heinous, more offensive and degrading than the selling of children for sexual services,” Crown attorney Catherine Cogswell told court. “That’s as low as humanity gets.”

When Gibson-Skeir was charged, an investigator in Halifax said it had been decades since such a young victim of prostitution had come forward to seek help from police.

“Human trafficking is a combination of physical and emotional torture,” Cogswell told the court. “How does a person recover from being bought and sold and emotionally, physically and sexually tortured? I’m not sure. But I do have hope for the young women coming forward now.”

The girl sat at the back of the courtroom with her parents. She chose not to make a victim impact statement.

Gibson-Skeir sat motionless Friday while the statement of facts was read into the court record, a swarm of tattoos climbing up the side of his neck and a tiny, blue butterfly fluttering just below his right eye. He declined to say anything when asked if he would like to address the court.

The young victim met Gibson-Skeir in late 2015, and by January of 2016 he was her pimp, the Crown attorney told court Friday.

For two months, the girl was forced into the sex trade by a man who described himself as a member of the Blood gang in East Preston, a half-hour drive east of Halifax, Cogswell said.

Gibson-Skeir took explicit photos of the girl, posted them on a classified website and then arranged all of her liaisons — mostly at local hotels and an apartment.

He took all of the money she earned, and she took to stealing food and clothing.

To keep her in line, he slapped her face, pulled her hair, slammed her against a refrigerator and choked her so forcefully that it left his handprint on her throat, the Crown lawyer said.

As for the men the girl had sex with, they would often ask how old she was.

“No one did anything about it,” said Cogswell. “This is one of the more shocking aspects of this case.”

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