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Sexual Interference / Invitation to Touching

The Charge

Under s. 151 of the Criminal Code everyone who, for a sexual purpose, touches a person under the age of 16 years is guilty of an indictable offence or a summary offence. Either way, the penalties are serious. If the Crown proceeds by indictment, there is a one year mandatory minimum jail sentence; if Crown proceeds summarily, there is a 90-day minimum jail sentence on conviction. Where a person is found guilty of this offence the court will often impose onerous terms of probation following the jail sentence. These terms may include prohibiting the offender from attending certain public areas and facilities or taking employment that will bring them into contact with persons under 16 years of age or using a computer to communicate with young people.

The offence of sexual interference may be committed by touching the young person’s body directly or indirectly. Under s. 150.1 (1) of the Criminal Code it is not a defence to a charge of sexual interference or sexual assault where the complainant is under the age of 16, that the complainant consented to the sexual activity. In short, a young person between 12 and 14 years of age is legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity with a person who is 2 years or older in age than them. Likewise, a young person between 14 and 16 years of age is incapable of consenting to sexual activity with a person who is 5 years or older than them.

The Investigation

We are experienced trial lawyers and know that the techniques employed by police and the rules of evidence and court procedure can be complex. This is especially true in sexual interference allegations. Police, social workers, Crown victim service workers, doctors and Crown prosecutors join forces and can, at times, overwhelm the suspect. Our experience in defending sexual interference cases allows us to analyze your version of events along with the complainant’s allegations and the whole of the Crown’s case.

Every case is unique, but typically, in a sexual interference charge, the complaint is first made to a parent, a teacher, a friend, a doctor or a counsellor. The complaint then goes to police who investigate further. The police are skilled in gathering information and will always want to talk to the subject of a sexual interference complaint. As experienced defence counsel, this is where we can help clients understand that the Charter protects them from having to speak to police as their right to remain silent is guaranteed by section 7. In situations where we are contacted before our client makes a statement to police, we can be of significant help. We will make enquiries to determine the nature of the complaint. Because of the laws involving “solicitor/client privilege,” we are able to act as a “buffer” between you and police. If appropriate to do so, we can tell police your side of the story in an effort to persuade them to not recommend charges. There is nothing that we as lawyers can say to police or Crown that can be used in court against our clients.

In the event that charges are recommended and approved, 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 interference 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 alleged incident. There are various rules that govern such alibi defences, and we have the necessary experience and skill required to advance such defences where appropriate.

Consent

The defence of consent is limited in sexual interference cases. Section 150.1 sets out that where the complainant is between 12 and 14 years of age, consent may only serve as a defence if the accused is less than 2 years older than the complainant. Where the complainant is between 14 and 16 years of age, consent may only serve as a defence if the accused is less than 5 years older than the complainant. In all cases, in order for consent to be considered as a defence, the accused must not be in a position of trust or authority over the complainant. Additionally, the accused must take “all reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the complainant.”

In essence, the Crown has the burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused did not take reasonable steps to ascertain that the complainant was within the legal range of age. In appropriate cases, we can advance the defence of honest but mistaken belief in the age of a consenting complainant, but only where we can show that the accused did take all reasonable steps to ascertain that the complainant was of legal age.

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.