Woman convicted of sexually assaulting 15-year-old boy wins new trial
A B.C. woman who was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy has had her conviction overturned on appeal and a new trial ordered.
The appellant was found guilty of the offences of sexual interference and sexual assault against the victim, who cannot be identified due to a publication ban, following a trial in Provincial Court.
The trial heard that the complainant’s family had immigrated to Canada from Mexico in 2016 with the family meeting the appellant through a local church.
The complainant testified that during an outing, he had a discussion with the appellant about sexual matters including whether she’d had an affair and whether he was a virgin.
On another occasion, in the summer of 2016, the complainant said that he accompanied the appellant when she drove to a parking lot in a forested area near the Guildford Mall in Surrey.
He claimed that while they were in the vehicle, she opened her shirt, removed her bra and asked him if he liked her breasts. Then she touched his penis twice over his pants and moved her head down close to his penis, he said.
Court also heard that following the alleged incident, the complainant and his mother met with the bishop of their church, a meeting that was also attended by the appellant.
When she was confronted with the boy’s allegations, the appellant angrily denied the complainant’s version of events and claimed that he had sexually harassed her.
The appellant’s lawyer argued on appeal that the trial judge had erred by not properly considering the legal issues surrounding the out-of-court denial of guilt made by her during the meeting at the church.
A three-judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal agreed with the defence and found that the judge should have considered whether the denial was believable. If it was believable, the accused was entitled to an acquittal, noted B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Joyce DeWitt-Van Oosten in her written reasons.
If the judge did not believe the denial but portions of the statement raised a reasonable doubt, the accused was also entitled to an acquittal, said DeWitt-Van Oosten. And even if there was no reasonable doubt but the judge was not sure who to believe, the judge must acquit, she said in overturning the conviction and ordering a new trial.
Justice Mary Saunders and Justice Elizabeth Bennett agreed with DeWitt-Van Oosten’s reasons.