Snowboarder posted stolen topless snap online

Jaden Beange at Cardrona Skifield in 2009.  Photo / Otago Daily Times
Jaden Beange at Cardrona Skifield in 2009. Photo / Otago Daily Times

A promising teen sportsman who stole a mobile phone and later posted a topless picture of its owner on Facebook has received a deterrent sentence for the "cowardly and offensive" act.

Jaden Beange, 18, a snowboarder who has represented New Zealand, declined to comment when contacted by the Otago Daily Times.

The teenager appeared in the Dunedin District Court on February 27, and Judge Michael Crosbie's reserved judgement was released this week.

In that judgement, Beange was convicted of three charges dating from the previous year: the theft of a Samsung mobile phone, doing an indecent act with intent to assault or offend, and drink-driving.

The first two charges relate to an August 3 incident when Beange, on leaving an Albert Town party, took a white Samsung mobile phone he found at the property.

Police alleged he removed the phone's microSD card and downloaded songs and digital photos from it to his own phone.

From those photos he recognised the phone's owner, a female friend.

Later that month, he created a Facebook profile under the victim's name, using a photo from the stolen microSD card as the profile picture.

He later attempted to delete the profile, but six days later set up another Facebook page called "[name suppressed] TheSlut", and uploaded some of the stolen photos, including a topless photo of the victim.

The next day the profile was removed. Judge Crosbie noted in his judgement that it was unknown whether it was removed by Facebook or Beange.

On September 7, the victim spoke to Beange by telephone. During that call he revealed he had her microSD card and had set up the Facebook profile.

Beange offered to give back the card but declined to return the phone.

Nine days later, police executed a search warrant at his address and he produced the stolen microSD card from his own mobile phone.

Beange told police he had found the phone outside the address, had set up both Facebook profiles using the contents of the card, and before police became involved had offered to give the card back.

The victim impact report noted the "significant effect" the theft and resulting Facebook profiles had on the young woman.

The matter was "unsettling" and had affected her socially, as well as her schooling, occupation and self-esteem.

"She states the offending has damaged her self-confidence, as a large percentage of her social group witnessed the photographs on Facebook," Judge Crosbie noted.

People had commented to her about the Facebook profile in a "rude and ridiculing manner", and she felt exploited and harassed.

"Her school work was affected and when the Facebook page was made she was distraught and lost confidence in herself and trust in her peers."

The victim did not go to school for several days after the creation of the page, which had affected her schooling, and the theft of her phone meant she missed calls relating to work.

The victim believed the offending was malicious and did not understand why the phone was not returned.

However, her main concern was what he did with the contents.

"It has caused her to struggle in many different situations and lose trust in people," the judge noted.

The victim, who opposedBeange's application for a discharge without conviction, said she was concerned the photos could resurface at any time and be used against her in future employment prospects.

Judge Crosbie said the matter was "cruel offending", and while easy to commit could have disproportionately severe consequences.

"It was also cowardly and offensive."

He was "not prepared" to discharge Beange without conviction, even after submissions that convictions could harm his ability to travel and pursue his sport.

Beange was convicted, ordered to pay $2000 in emotional harm, and for each charge was given 200 hours' community work, the terms to be concurrent.

He was also convicted of the driving charge and disqualified for six months.

- Otago Daily Times

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