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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. V.B. – Vancouver Provincial Court

.Charges: Assault; Uttering Threats (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to Crown counsel on our client's behalf which resulted in Crown deciding to enterr a stay of proceedings on both charges. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault of a Peace Officer.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for our client to be granted a discharge for his actions in spitting in the face of an RCMP officer at the Vancouver Airport.
Result: Mr. Gauthier presented information to the Court and after hearing his submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal record.

R. vs. F.S. – North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Theft Under $5000.
Issue: Whether Crown could prove the number and value of the electronic devices they alleged our client stole from his workplace.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to allege that the theft involved  only 7 devices worth only $1000. After hearing Mr. Mines submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M. G. – Sechelt RCMP investigation

Charges: Criminal harassment; Distributing intimate images without consent.
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove the circumstantial evidence they sought to rely on and whether jail was the  appropriate sentence.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to convince Crown counsel to not rely on much of the aggravating evidence and, on our client's guilty plea to not seek a jail sentence. After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence with probation. No jail.

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

Charges: Criminal harassment; Distributing intimate images without consent.
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove the circumstantial evidence they sought to rely on and whether jail was the  appropriate sentence.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to convince Crown counsel to not rely on much of the aggravating evidence and, on our client's guilty plea to not seek a jail sentence. After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence with probation. No jail.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction and whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel that resulted in Crown electing to stay the proceedings and to end the prosecution. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel which resulted in Crown deciding to end the prosecution not approve any charges.  No criminal record.

R. vs. J.L. – UBC RCMP Investigation

Charges: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of obtaining a criminal conviction and whether it was in the public interest for police to recommend charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to police whic resulted in police closing their investigation. No charges recommended. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.A. – West Shore RCMP investigation

Charge: Assault (Domestic).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the Crown to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to Crown Counsel that convinced them not to approve charges against the client. No criminal prosecution. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.S. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault (reduced to common assault.)
Issue: Whether Crown counsel could prove that our client touched the complainant for a sexual purpose.
Result: Mr. Mines was able tp persuade Crown counsel that our client did not intend to touch the complainant in a sexual manner. The Crown agreed to proceed on the lesser charge of common assault and, after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction. No jail. No sex offender registry.

R. vs. N.R. – Sechelt Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether it was in the pubic interest for our client to be sentenced to a conditional discharge for this offence which resulted in a serious facial cut to the complainant.

R. vs. S.K. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Assault with a Weapon, Breach of a Release Order.
Issue: Whether our client could be released on bail given Crown's concerns for his willingness to attend court and potential to commit further offences.
Result: Mr. Johnston was able to persuade the Judge to release our client on the least onerous conditions.

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.