THUNDER BAY – A local Superior Court judge said the actions of a man who surreptitiously photographed hundreds of women in public and private places throughout the city has left a profound psychological impact on each and every one of the victims and has created a loss of trust in the community. “This was a planned and deliberate act. You knew at the time that your actions were wrong by attempts to hide the camera and use of a pinhole camera,” said Justice Danalyn MacKinnon. “The fabric of the community is torn by these actions.” Justice MacKinnon’s comments were made during a sentencing hearing on Friday for 43-year-old Brent Mehagan, who pleaded guilty last month to five counts of making child pornography, four counts of voyeurism for sexual purposes, and one count of criminal harassment. The incidents took place between January 2016 and March 2020 and involved a total of 361 victims. Following a contested sentencing hearing in April 2022 during which Crown attorney Rob Kozak called for a custodial sentence of five to six years while defense counsel Brennan Sacevich sought two years in custody and three years probation, Justice MacKinnon sentenced Mehagan to a total of 46 months, or three years and 10 months. With pre-sentence custody of eight actual days enhanced to 12, as well as considerations for house arrest conditions as part of a release order credited at eight months, Mehagan will serve 38 months in custody. Mehagan was first arrested on March 16, 2020 after the Thunder Bay Police Service was notified by three females under the age of 18 who observed a man who was taking photographs of them while at a local gym and swimming pool on March 6. During the investigation, police seized several cameras and computers from Mehagan’s home and more than 4,400 folders with 1,453 video recordings of unaware females in various locations were discovered. Justice MacKinnon said the categorization of the victims was particularly disturbing. “It is frightening to other people because it is often a precursor to more intrusive, violent, or abusive behaviours,” she said. “You have violated the common understanding of Thunder Bay citizens that privacy, personal body integrity, are not to be violated, even visually.” The photographs and video recordings were taken in various public locations throughout the city, including malls, restaurants, as well as private locations like changing rooms. Mehagan utilized a zoom lens and hidden pinhole cameras to photograph and film women without their knowledge. He would also sometimes learn the names of the victims and download images from their social media profiles. One victim was recorded at various times between the age of 12 and 16 years old and of the 361 victims, some have not yet been identified. Several victim impact statements were presented to the court in April 2022 and detailed how Mehagan’s actions have created a loss of trust and fear among those who were filmed and photographed. Justice MacKinnon said Mehagan violated the victim’s sense of security and has led them to be afraid of others and fearful of being in public. But she also took a moment to praise the three young women at the local gym and swimming pool, whose actions led to the arrest of Mehagan in March 2020. “They let you know that they saw you,” Justice MacKinnon said. “They had the wherewithal to photograph you committing your criminal acts. Without their fearlessness and presence of mind, your criminal activity would have continued and created more victims. These women are the real heroes in my mind.” Justice MacKinnon cited several mitigating and aggravating factors in determining her sentence, which she said needed to both act as a deterrence to prevent others from engaging in similar behaviours, but also serve rehabilitative purposes. “Given the sheer volume of victims and public outrage at your actions it would be tempting to maximize any sentence you should receive,” she said. “But the court must apply restraint and consideration of all of the circumstance of your crimes.” The mitigating factors include Mehagan taking responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty and expressions of remorse to the victims, which Justice MacKinnon said opens the door for Mehagan to be rehabilitated. “I am impressed by your efforts to understand yourself better and you gained some insight into the crimes,” she said, but added that Mehagan has not yet fully articulated “the power and control issues and sexual gratification elements” of the offence. A pre-sentence report and Gladue report were ordered and Justice MacKinnon acknowledged that Mehagan’s life has markers of living in a home where alcohol abuse was present, that he has little connection with his Indigenous heritage, and has suffered losses with the deaths of family members. Several aggravating factors were also cited by Justice MacKinnon, including Mehagan’s previous conviction on child pornography charges in 2009 that resulted in a 45-day sentence. Following the sentence Mehagan underwent counselling but Justice MacKinnon noted that he minimized his actions at that time. One of the most significant aggravating factors for Justice MacKinnon was that Mehagan’s actions were deliberate, prolonged, and involved hundreds of victims. “You were cataloguing and investigating young women in this city,” Justice MacKinnon said. “This matter calls for a jail sentence that will deter you from committing similar offences in the future and deter others.” Justice Mackinnon added that it is up to Mehagan to take responsibility for his rehabilitation while in custody and upon his release. “You are the only person who can change the trajectory of your life,” she said. Mehagan will also be required to submit a DNA sample and he is to comply with the Sex Offender Registration Act for life. Upon his release, he will also be prohibited for 10 years from attending any public park or swimming area where persons under the age of 16 are expected to be, as well as daycare and community centres except in the presence of an adult with knowledge of the conditions, and is prohibited from using the internet or cellphones for any unlawful purpose.