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Sexual Assault

The Charge

Sexual assault is an assault which is committed in circumstances of a sexual nature such that the act violates the sexual integrity of the complainant. Under s. 271 of the Criminal Code, the Crown may proceed by indictment, in which case the maximum sentence is 10 years in jail, unless the complainant is under the age of 16, in which case the maximum jail sentence is 14 years. Alternatively, the Crown may proceed summarily, in which case the maximum sentence is two years jail, less a day. Generally, when the offence involves intercourse, the Crown will proceed by indictment.

Section 273.1 of the Criminal Code defines “consent” as requiring the “voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question.” Section 273.1(2) goes on to set out a number of circumstances where the apparent agreement of the complainant cannot amount to consent. Effectively, there cannot be consent where:

  • Agreement is expressive through the words or conduct of someone other than the complainant;
  • The complainant is “incapable” of giving consent (i.e. through intoxication or unconsciousness);
  • The accused obtained consent through abusing a position of trust, power or authority; or
  • Where the complainant has expressed, by words or conduct, a lack of agreement to consent to, or to continue to consent to, the sexual activity.

In essence, where sexual assault is alleged, the accused person must show, as set out under s. 273.2 of the Criminal Code that they “reasonably believed that the complainant was consenting.” There can be no “reasonable belief” that the complainant consented where the accused’s belief arose out of:

  • Self-induced intoxication; or
  • Willful blindness or recklessness; or
  • Where the accused did not take reasonable steps to ascertain that the complainant was consenting.

The Investigation

We know that there are two sides to every story. We also know that the rules of evidence and court procedure relating to sexual assault allegations can be complex. Our experience in defending sex assault charges allows us to analyze your version of events along with the complainant’s allegations and the Crown’s case in general.

Every case is unique, but typically, police may not receive a sexual assault complaint for hours, days, weeks or, sometimes, years after the alleged incident. In these situations, police will contact the suspect by phone, or by attending at their home or workplace in order to obtain a statement or to make an arrest. As experienced lawyers, this is where we can help clients understand that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that people need not speak to police because they have the right to remain silent.  In situations where we are contacted before police obtain a statement, we can be of significant assistance. We will make enquiries to determine the nature of the complaint. Because of the laws involving solicitor/client privilege, we can act as a “buffer” between our client and police. There is nothing that we, as lawyers, can say on our client’s behalf that can be used against our client. This enables us, if appropriate to do so, to tell the police your side of the story without any potential harm. We will strive to persuade police to not recommend charges, or in the event that charges are laid, we will strive to obtain police agreement to not arrest our client. Rather, we will endeavor to arrange that our client appears in court to have the arrest warrant “deemed executed” without the need for our client to be taken into custody. We will always argue that our client can be released from custody on the most liberal bail conditions that are appropriate.

Recent Successes

R. vs. M.M. - Courtenay Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual Assault (police investigation).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade police that it was in the parties' best interest and not contrary to the public interest to resolve this matter through Restorative Justice. No charges were approved. no criminal record.

R. vs. A.V. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Fraud Under $5000 (police investigation).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to assist our client to make civil restitution and to persuade police to not recommend any criminal charges. No charge was approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.P - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Breach of Undertaking (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction and whether it was in the public interest to proceed.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to stay all of the criminal charges and to allow our client to enter into a peace bond. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. F.K. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Dangerous Driving; Obstruct/Resist Arrest (Reduced to MVA charge).
Issue: Whether the Crown would be able to prove that our client had the necessary element of  intent for a criminal conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on a lesser charge under the Motor Vehicle Act of speeding relative to the road conditions. Our client was sentenced to a driving prohibition. No criminal record.

R. vs. E.Z. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon; Possession of a Weapon for a Dangerous Purpose.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a criminal conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown that there were flaws in the evidence and that a conviction was highly unlikely. No charges were approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. G.M.G. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Theft Under $5000.
Issue: Whether our client was acting to defend his spouse when he physically engaged with the complainant.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide further evidence to Crown counsel which persuaded Crown that there was no substantial likelihood of a conviction. Complete stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. B.M. - New Westminster Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was merit in moving forward with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information to Crown counsel that led to Crown concluding there was no substantial likelihood of a conviction. Stay of proceedings. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. D.M. - Burnaby RCMP Investigation

Charges: Sexual Interference; Invitation to Sexual Touching; Assault.
Issue: Whether the evidence would lead to charges being approved.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to guide our client through the police investigation and to ultimately persuade the investigating officer that the evidence of the complaint was not reliable. No criminal charges were forwarded to Crown counsel.

R. vs. S.A. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm (Reduced to Peace Bond).
Issue: After directing our client through a course of self rehabilitation, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to stay the criminal charge upon our client being placed on a peace bond. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.K. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving while Prohibited.
Issue: Whether our client would be sentenced to the mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser charge of driving without a valid drivers license. Our client was sentenced to a fine. No driving prohibition.

R. v. P.Z. - North Vancouver RCMP Investigation

Charges: Sexual Interference; Invitation to Sexual Touching; Assault.
Issue: Whether the evidence would lead to charges being approved.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to guide our client through the police investigation and to ultimately persuade the investigating officer that the evidence of the complaint was not reliable. No criminal charges were approved.

R. vs. N.D. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Invitation to Sexual Touching (x2).
Issues: To what extent the court would consider our client's remorse and rehabilitation when passing sentence.
Result: Notwithstanding that our client was in a position of trust and the Crown had originally sought a sentence of 12 months jail, Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel and the Court that the appropriate sentence was 90 days, to be served on weekends.

The Defence

No Sexual Contact

The Crown’s first hurdle in a sexual assault case is proving that there was any contact whatsoever between the complainant and the accused. The location, date, and time of the alleged incident is certainly important because it may be that the accused can establish that they were, in fact, in another place at the time of the allegation. There are certain rules and requirements that govern such alibi defences, and we have the necessary experience and skill to advance such defences where appropriate.

Consent

Consent is the central issue in the majority of sexual assault charges. Sections 265(3) and 273.1 of the Criminal Code set out that the Crown must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused failed to obtain the voluntary agreement of the complainant to engage in the sexual activity in question.

The defence is, of course, permitted to refer to relevant evidence that tends to suggest the accused did, in fact, obtain the complainant’s voluntary agreement to engage in the sexual activity. Amendments to the Criminal Code and recent case law have limited what the courts will allow as “relevant” evidence tending to suggest an agreement was obtained. For example, there can be no agreement obtained where the complainant was incapacitated, tricked, or withdrew their agreement.

Our experience as trial lawyers allows us to assess cases before they get to trial, and in appropriate cases, we are able to persuade Crown to not proceed to trial or to proceed on a lesser charge. We will strive to get full particulars (police reports and witness statements) from Crown counsel before you put your side of the story on the record. Should your matter require being resolved at trial, we will fully prepare you and explain our strategies to you. We will diligently defend you in the courtroom.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.