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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. J.L. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual assault; Unlawful Confinement; Assault by Choking.
Issue: Given the impact of the additional evidence that Mr. Johnson provided to Crown counsel, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Crown counsel agreed that the new evidence significantly undermined the strength of the case.  Crown counsel entered a stay of proceedings, bringing the prosecution to an end. No jail. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for our client to receive a suspended sentence despite having two prior assault convictions.
Result: After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the trial judge granted our client a suspended sentence with 12 months of " non reporting" probation.  No jail.

R. vs. T.L. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Indecent Act; Mischief (reduced to Peace Bond).
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove that our client intended to commit a criminal offence.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on the the criminal charges upon our client entering into a Peace Bond. No criminal record.

R. vs. B.I. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault.
Issue: Given the Covid-19 pandemic, whether it was appropriate to refer our client into the Alternative Measures Program for this assault by spitting offence.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide Crown counsel with compelling information about our client which resulted in Crown allowing our client into Alternative Measures and staying the charge upon our client completing the program. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.F. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon; Uttering Threats x2; Unlawful Confinement.
Issues: Whether Crown could prove that a weapon was used or that the complainant was unlawfully confined.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to accept pleas to the lesser charges of common assault and uttering a threat. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions on our client's behalf, the trail judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No jail; no permanent criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving while prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prohibited driving charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser charge of driving without possessing a valid driver's licence. Rather than the 12 month minimum mandatory driving prohibition, our client received a 4 month prohibition.

R. vs. J.L. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest to continue with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on the assault charge upon you entering into a s. 810 peace bond. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.M. - Insurance fraud investigation

Charge: Fraud Under $5000.
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the prosecution in this extended health insurance fraud matter.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to negotiate a civil settlement and to persuade the investigator to not pursue a prosecution. No criminal record.

R. vs. D.P. - Vancouver provincial Court

Charge: Uttering a Threat (reduced to Peace Bond).
Issues: Whether the words uttered were clearly a threat or not.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel that the words were vague. Crown agreed to end the criminal prosecution upon our client entering into a Peace Bond with a "no contact" condition. No criminal record.

R. vs. B.R. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Mischief to Property (x2).
Issue: Whether, given our client's circumstances, it was appropriate to continue the criminal prosecution of this matter which involved damage in excess of $5000 to two vehicles.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program and to stay both criminal charges upon completion. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault, Uttering Threats.
Issue: Given the context of this threatening and assault by spitting offence, whether it was appropriate for our client to be convicted.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided additional information to the Crown and the Court about our client and was able to persuade the judge to grant our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. P. I. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual Assault (reduced to assault).
Issue: Given our client's mental health issues, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to continue with the sex assault prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information top Crown counsel and to persuade Crown to proceed with a charge of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. no criminal conviction. no jail, no sex offender registry.

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.