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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.P. - ICBC insurance fraud investigation.

Charge: Insurance fraud.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through the investigation by helping our client rectify the fraudulent information that he had provided to I.C.B.C. No charges approved. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm; Assault Police Officer.
Issue: Given our client's severe mental health issues, whether he was criminally responsible for the offences.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information about our client's mental health history to Crown counsel and, ultimately, was able to persuade Crown to end the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.H. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.,br> Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether this road rage incident was a criminal offence or a consensual fight.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to present Crown counsel with video evidence which confirmed that the complainant had engaged in a consensual altercation. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.Y. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether the 18 month jail sentence Crown had sought was reasonable in all the circumstances.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the Crown and Court and ultimately persuaded the trial judge to sentence our client to a 7 month conditional sentence , followed ny 18 months probation. No jail.

R. vs. G.W. - North Vancouver RCMP Investigation

Charge: Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able collect information from a defence witness and represent to police that our client should not  be prosecuted. Police concluded their investigation without recommending any criminal charge against our client. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we directed our client to complete, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to not approve any charge prior to the scheduled first court appearance. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.L. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Possession of a loaded prohibited firearm; Unlawful storage of firearms.
Issue: Whether the warrant used to search our client's premises was lawful; whether our client posed a risk to re-offend.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to point to potential flaws in the warrant and police search which culminated in Crown's agreement to not pursue their original sentencing position of a 2-3 year jail sentence. Rather, the court accepted a joint submission of a 12 month conditional sentence with a curfew for the first six months. No jail.

R. vs. M.K.A. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon (x2).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the court to grant our client a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to direct our client through a course of rehabilitative counselling, and after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the trial judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

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

Charges: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps that we were able to guide our client through, whether there was a public interest in continuing with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to amend the bail condition to allow "permissive contact" with the complainant, and after providing Crown with a report from our client's psychologist Crown counsel ended the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

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.

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.