Sexual assault tends to be prosecuted particularly aggressive by police and Crown offices in Ontario. Charges can often turn into protracted affairs, requiring the accused to expend substantial of time and effort defending themselves and requiring the justice system to adjudicate disputed narratives with little evidence. Such charges tend to have extremely prejudicial effects on the accused’s standing in the community, even before a final determination can be made.
In 2016, a total of 85 sexual assault were reported to police in Guelph. This brought the annual rate in Guelph to 64.22 per 100,00, which is higher than the national annual rate of 56.56 per 100,000.
This is why we go to great lengths to ensure that charges are dealt with quickly and discretely. We constantly seek out creative means of addressing our clients’ concerns, including working with police to assist them in vetting claims before charges are even brought, or consulting with high-risk professionals such as physicians, educators, and child-care workers. Our experience is valued by our clients throughout Ontario, and we have been trusted with handling high-profile sexual assault cases involving both children and adults.
36 Wyndham Street South, Guelph, ON N1H 7J5 is the location of the Guelph criminal courthouse. Wyndham Street South and Fountain Street is the main intersection. This criminal courthouse has jurisdiction over all criminal matters that have occurred in the province of Ontario. As well, the courthouse specifically hears cases of serious criminal offences alleged to have occurred in Guelph. The courthouse can be reached at 519-826-4431 and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5 pm. Services are offered in English, French and Quebec Sign Language and there are Interpretive Services.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Assault?
An “Assault” is defined in the Canadian Criminal Code to include three scenarios:
- When a person intentionally applies force to another person, either directly or indirectly, without their consent.
- Any act or gesture, if (1) a person uses such an act or gesture to attempt or threaten to apply force to another person, and (2) if this causes the other person to believe on reasonable grounds that the alleged attacker has the present ability to effect his purpose; or
- When a person accosts or impedes another person or begs, while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof.
What is Sexual Assault?
In the sexual assault context, the first definition is the most relevant, and includes touching of the victim’s body which they have not consented to. In addition, over and above the assault, the touching must have been of a sexual nature and violated the sexual integrity of the victim.
In assessing the sexual nature of the assault, the Supreme Court has lain out a series of factors. The question is whether a reasonable observer would have considered the assault to have had a sexual nature, taking into account factors such as:
- The part of the body touched;
- The nature of the contact;
- The situation in which it occurred;
- The words and gestures accompanying the act;
- All other circumstances surrounding the conduct, including threats which may or may not be accompanied by force; and,
- The accused’s intent or purpose as well as his motive, if such motive is sexual gratification, may also be factors in considering whether the conduct is sexual.
Three offences codify sexual assault in the Canadian Criminal Code. Listed in order of escalating penalties, these are:
- Section 271 – Sexual Assault (encompasses all assaults of a sexual nature violating the sexual integrity of the victim not covered by the other two provisions).
- Section 272 – Sexual Assault with a Weapon, Threats to a Third Party or Causing Bodily Harm, arising in four situations when a person who, while committing a sexual assault, also does one of the following:
- (a) Carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation of a weapon;
- (b) Threatens to cause bodily harm to a person other than the complainant;
- (c) Causes bodily harm to the complainant; or
- (d) Is a party to the offence with any other person.
- Section 273 – Aggravated Sexual Assault occurs when an accused, in committing a sexual assault, wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of the complainant.
Punishments for sexual assault tend to be severe. The sexual nature of an assaults results in elevated punishment relative to assault alone. Where the complainant is under the age of consent, that is, has not yet reached age sixteen, the offence is treated yet more seriously, resulting in harsher sentences, including minimum penalties.
Sexual Interference & The Age of Consent
In addition, some offences are specific to cases in which the alleged victim is a child. These include sexual interference, in which the accused touches a person under the age of sixteen for a sexual purpose. There are four necessary conditions:
- The complainant was under the age of sixteen at the time of the event;
- The accused touched the complainant;
- The touching was for a sexual purpose;
- The accused knew the complainant was under the age of sixteen or did not take reasonable steps to ascertain the complainant’s age.
A central component of the offence of sexual interference is whether the alleged victim has reached the age of consent. A person under the age of consent cannot give legally effective consent at law. As the absence of consent is a necessary condition of a conviction for assault or any of its derivatives listed above, sexual acts with persons under the age of majority are far more likely to be criminal. There are some exceptions; depending on the relatives ages of those involved and their “peer-group”, there are carve-outs in which consent will be effective.
In Canada, the age of consent is sixteen. Where the act in question was the purchase of services from a sex worker (in this context, termed “exploitation”), the age of consent is eighteen.
Contrary to the case of sexual assault provisions, in the case of sexual interference, there is no specific requirement for there to have been an absence of consent. As discussed above, this flows from the definition of the age of consent above: consent is, at law, impossible for them to give.
Incest, sex between family members, is also criminalized in Canada. While a conviction for incest does not require the absence of consent, we include it here because of the greatly enhanced severity of incest charges where the victim had not reached age sixteen. In all cases, incest has a fourteen-year maximum penalty. However, where the victim had not yet reached the age of sixteen, there is also liability for a five-year minimum sentence.
Our experience extends to any of the charges above, alongside many others. In particular, we have dealt with the defence of a range of sexual crimes, including Sexual Interference, Sexual Exploitation, Internet Luring, Child Pornography, Voyeurism alongside other related sex offences. Our experience includes everything up to and including trials. Our team of Guelph Criminal Lawyers can provide you with an outline of your options and work with you to bring forward the most effective defense possible.
Our Firm is exceedingly experienced in dealing with a large range of sexual assault allegations. These range from Incest, to Sexual Interference, to Sexual Exploitation and Internet Luring, Voyeurism and Child Pornography. Some of our recent successful cases can be found in a summary here. The Firm has been successful in defending and prosecuting Civil Actions of historical sexual assault. There is potential for such allegations to arise in the context of criminal proceedings. These types of Civil Actions often seek damages over $1 million. These types of cases face similar challenges associated with criminal defence, making the Firm equipped and prepared to handle such allegations.
The Firm also handles a wide range of sexual assault allegations ranging from offences against children to high profile sex offences in Guelph. The Firm has defended charges of Sexual Assault, Sexual Interference, Voyeurism, Internet Luring, Incest, Sexual Exploitation, Child Pornography and other similar sex offences in Guelph.
If you have been charged with sexual assault in Guelph and are weighing your options, consider reaching out to our office. We can be contacted at 416-DEFENCE, or at [email protected], where we offer free consultations. While we are based in Toronto, our criminal law team practices across the province, and are happy to advocate for our clients in Guelph and beyond.