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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. v. S.C. – Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was credible evidence that would meet the charge approval standard.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to the investigating officer that led the investigator to conclude that our client was not chargeable with a criminal offence. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Forcible Confinement (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our through, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be sentenced to a criminal record.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown to proceed only on the assault charge and, after hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R.M. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles

Charge: 90 Day Immediate Roadside prohibition.
Issue: Whether the police report established, on balance, that our client had refused to provide a breath sample during a roadside impaired driving investigation.
Result: The adjudicator agreed with Mr. Mines' submissions that our client's evidence was more reliable than the evidence set out in the Police Report to the Superintendent. The 90 day driving prohibition was overturned and our client was ruled eligible to resume driving.

R. vs. E.W. – Fort Nelson Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a criminal conviction.
Result: Upon reviewing the allegations, Mr. Mines made representations to Crown counsel resulting in Crown agreeing that there was no reasonable prospect of convicting our client. No charges were approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.K. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Peace Officer; Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to  persuade Crown counsel to allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program and to enter a stay of proceedings on both charges upon our client completing the program. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.S. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from weapons charge).
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the prosecution of our client who had failed to complete a course of court ordered counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through an equivalent course of counselling. Upon completion, Crown counsel stayed the proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.P. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Causing Danger to Life.
Issue: Given the medical evidence Mr. Gauthier provided to Crown counsel, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.A. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Breaking & Entering; Unlawful Confinement; Assault.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the prosecution to continue against our client, a U.S. citizen who was in Canada on a visitor's visa.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on all charges upon our client agreeing to a Deportation Order. No criminal record.

R. vs. P.N. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Dangerous Driving Causing Death. Issue: Whether Crown could prove that our client had the necessary intent to prove that she was guilty of the criminal charge. Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed under the Motor Vehicle Act rather than the Criminal Code. After hearing Mr. Mines'  submissions, the Court sentenced our client to 60 days to be served on weekends. The Crown had originally sought a sentence in the range of 2 years.

R. vs. L.A. – New Westminster Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from domestic assault charge).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to prosecute our client for failing to report and complete counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to guide our client back onto an alternative course of rehabilitation and persuaded Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Uttering Threats; Extortion.
Issue: Given the age of the charges and the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether a jail sentence was appropriate.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to seek a non custodial sentence. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence and placed him on probation for 16 months. No jail.

R. vs. K.A. – Western Communities Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Given the information we provided to Crown counsel regarding the complainant's past unlawful behaviour toward our client, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: As a result of the information we provided, Crown counsel withdrew the charge. No further bail restrictions. No 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.