When it comes to sexual offences committed against minors, an occasional defence used is being mistaken about their age. For this defence to be effective, the accused must have ensured they took every reasonable step to establish the age of the alleged victim.
The concept of “reasonable steps” can be vague. The Supreme Court of Canada has provided guidance about the matter in an allegation from 2011. In that case a complaint was filed on behalf of a minor known as C.D. in public records. C.D. was 14 years old at the time, but the evidentiary record stated that he looked older. C.D. engaged in sexual activity with a 35-year-old female friend. He never filed a complaint. He never went to authorities about the intimate encounter.
The situation came to the attention of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when the woman filled out paperwork to join the police force. One of the questions on the application was, “Have you ever engaged in intimate relations with someone under the age of 16?”
The woman answered, “Yes.”
Subsequently, she was charged with sexual interference in addition to the sexual assault of a minor. The only defence available to her was mistake of age.
Her acquittal reinvigorated the debate about the effectiveness of the age of consent laws in Canada.
If you are charged with any crimes related to sexual assault in Toronto, Kitchener, London or Windsor a sexual assault defence lawyer will be able to consult with you and devise a comprehensive strategy for your defence.
Raising reasonable doubt in a case involving mistake of age is challenging because it is difficult to determine how a rational person would act in each scenario. In some situations, it is reasonable to ask the age of a potential sex partner. However, it is a mistake to mandate that a rational person would need to ask someone’s age every time.
On the other hand, it is a mistake to think simply asking one’s age is enough especially considering that many young people misrepresent how old they are.
One general rule may be applied to all cases: The more reasonable and logical the perception of age by the accused, the fewer steps they are required to take in ascertaining someone’s age.
For example, if an adult is in a bar and meets a person, the adult should safely be able to assume the person is of age simply based upon the location of their meeting.
In the above case, the Supreme Court held that the judge during the initial trial correctly took the circumstances of the case into consideration including the following:
- The mature physical appearance of C.D.
- C.D.’s activities and behavior
- The appearance of the social group C.D. was with and
- The circumstances under which the two met
Protect Your Rights by Hiring an Experienced Sexual Assault Defence Lawyer in Toronto, Kitchener, London or Windsor
Offences related to sexual crimes in Canada are prosecuted severely. The penalty for a conviction may be substantial and impact your life well beyond the case itself. Therefore, it is important to contact a sexual assault defence lawyer the moment you think you may be charged with or implicated in a sex crime.
The circumstances surrounding the charges may be difficult to discuss, but the conversation must happen if your lawyer is to successfully begin working on your case.