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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. A.N. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we guided our client through, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to seek a conviction on this charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to permit our client to plead to the lesser offence of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. J.J. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of  the Crown being able to prove that bodily harm occurred.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to permit our client to plead to the lesser offence of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given that the complainant had instigated the altercation, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be convicted of the offence.
Result: We were able to guide our client through a course of rehabilitation and, after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge and placed him on a non-reporting probation order for six months. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. S.W. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Refusing to comply with a testing demand.
Issue: Given the circumstances of the offence and our client, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser Motor Vehicle Act offence of driving without due care. Rather than a criminal conviction and a minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was liable to pay a $350 fine and a 2 month driving prohibition. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Given the circumstances of the offence and our client, whether it was necessary for Crown to proceed with the driving while prohibited charge, which carries a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser Motor Vehicle Act charge of driving without a driver's licence. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions our client was sentenced to a fine and a 4 month driving prohibition.

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

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm (domestic).
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove that bodily harm resulted and, whether the rehabilitative steps our client had taken justified the Court granting a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the charge of common assault. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. C.M. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault; Threatening.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of conviction in this alleged "road rage" case.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information to Crown counsel on our client's behalf that led Crown to conclude there was no substantial likelihood of conviction. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. M.D. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Theft Under $5000; Uttering Threats.
Issue: Whether, given our client's circumstances and remorse, whether it was in the public interest for criminal charges to proceed.
Result: We were able to provide information to police investigators which resulted in police deciding to not forward any charges to Crown. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.L. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information to the Crown on our client's behalf that persuaded Crown that the case did not meet the charge approval standard. No charge was approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.F. - Provincial Court of Newfoundland

Charge: Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking (Marijuana).
Issue: Whether it there was a substantial likelihood of obtaining a conviction.
Result: Upon considering Mr. Johnson's representations, Crown counsel concluded that there was no longer a likelihood of conviction. Crown withdrew the charge, bringing the matter to an end. No criminal record.

R. vs. M.B. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Application for firearms prohibition and forfeiture.
Issue: Whether Crown could establish that our client posed a risk to himself or others.
Result: Mid trial, Mr. Mines was able to obtain a successful resolution in which our client consented to an 18 month prohibition rather than the 5 years Crown had been seeking.  Further, rather than having to forfeit the  $15,000 worth of weapons that police seized,  Crown agreed to allow our client to sell them to a suitable buyer.

R. vs. C.B. - Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Possession of proceeds of crime.
Issue: Whether there was any lawful authority to arrest our client and seize funds from him.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the investigating officer that there was no basis to search our client and to return the $2400 cash that he had seized. No charges approved. Not criminal record.

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.