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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.J. – Insurance Fraud Investigation

Charges: Fraud Over $5,000 Investigation.
Issue: Given that we were able to negotiate a civil settlement of this $13,000 insurance claim overpayment, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to negotiate a settlement of the alleged fraudulent claim. We obtained a full Release, ending the matter in both the civil and criminal context. No further liability. No criminal charges.

R. vs. M.M. – New Westminster Police Investigation

Charge: Sexual Assault Investigation.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence for police to recommend that criminal charges be approved.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to guide our client through the police investigation, and to provide police with information on our client's behalf. Ultimately, police decided not to forward any charge to Crow. No charges approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.T. – Insurance Fraud Investigation

Charges: Fraud Under $5,000
Issue: Given our client's repayment of the alleged fraudulent health insurance benefits, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to settle the matter civilly on our client's behalf without any further civil or criminal proceeding. No charges were approved.

R. vs. A.S. – Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Assault (domestic) Reduced to Peace Bond.
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. Mines was able to steer our client through a course of rehabilitation and persuaded Crown to stay the assault charge and to allow our client to enter into a Peace Bond.

R. vs. G.V. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Uttering Threats.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence for criminal charges to be approved.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide Crown counsel with additional information and persuaded Crown that it was not in the public interest to proceed with any criminal charges.

R. vs. M.H.E. – Abbotsford Provincial Court

Charges: Assault.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel regarding our client's circumstances and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in proceeding with a criminal prosecution. No criminal record.

R. vs. E.C. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual Assault; Assault.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we guided our client through, the nature of the sex assault itself and our client's true remorse, whether a jail sentence or house arrest were required.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to make a joint submission for a conditional discharge. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions on our client's behalf, the trial judge granted our client the discharge. No jail or house arrest. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. N. O. – Courtenay Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm x2; Assault x3.
Issues: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to Crown counsel which cast the complainant's credibility and reliability into doubt. The Crown made an adjournment application which Mr. Gauthier opposed. Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown to stay all of the criminal charges upon our client entering into a Peace Bond. No jail; No criminal record.

R. v. K.T. – Insurance Fraud Investigation

Charges: Fraud Under $5000.
Issue: Given our client's repayment of the alleged fraudulent health insurance benefit claims, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Mines was able settle the matter on our client's behalf and received a Release from the insurer ending the matter without any further civil or criminal proceeding. No charges were approved.

R. vs. A.H. – Vancouver Supreme Court

Charges: Sentence Appeal - Forcible entry; Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether the Supreme Court would uphold our client's conditional discharge that was granted to our client by the Provincial Court.
Result: After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions on this sentence appeal, the Supreme Court justice agreed with Mr. Gautier and ruled that the sentence was appropriate in all the circumstances. The court dismissed the Crown's appeal. The conditional discharge was upheld.

R. v. J.F. – Dawson Creek Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: The credibility of the complainant's testimony during this three day trial.
Result: After vigorous cross examination of the complainant and another Crown eyewitness, Mr. Gauthier made submissions which were accepted by the trial judge. The court found our client to be not guilty and aquitted him of the charge. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. D.C. – Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual Assault (x2).
Issue: In the circumstances of these historic charges and our client's rehabilitation, whether a community based sentence was appropriate.
Result: Notwithstanding that Crown counsel sought a 20 month jail sentence, the trial judge agreed with Mr. Mines' submission that, in the circumstances of our client's genuine remorse and rehabilitation, it was appropriate to  grant a conditional sentence of 21 months. No jail.

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.