Frequently Asked Questions
What is Sexual Assault in Canada?
What is a Registration for Sex Offences?
What is the Age of Consent?
What is Sexual Interference & Incest?
What is Sex Offender Registration?
Sexual Assault in Canada
The three primary offences detailing sexual assault in Canada are, in order of escalating severity:
- 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 can arise 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.
Registration for Sex Offences
Conviction, a guilty plea, or a finding of Not Criminally Responsible, can result in what is referred to as a SOIRA Order, that is, an order under the Sex Offender Information Registration Act. These orders, lasting 10 years, 20 years, or for life, result in the individual being placed in a database of offenders that provides the police with information about themselves, their location, and their offences.
The Age of Consent
In Canada, the age of consent for sexual activity is sixteen. This means that individuals under the age of sixteen cannot provide consent to sexual activity that will have legal effect. There are some exceptions to this where the accused is of similar age to the complainant, but where these exceptions do not apply, consent will not be a good defence where the accused knew the complainant’s age or they failed to take sufficient steps to ascertain it.
All of the above offences apply, but to an even greater degree, where the offence is said to relate to a child. Where an offence was committed against an individual under the age of 16, this is considered to be an aggravating factor, mandating more severe penalties. Minimum penalties begin to apply. Individuals risk being placed on a specific risk relating to convicted offenders against children.
Sexual Interference & Incest
In addition to the offences detailed above, there is also the possibility of charges being brought under section 151 for “Sexual Interference”. Sexual interference is the touching of a person under the age of sixteen, either directly or indirectly, for a sexual purpose. In these cases, the Crown must prove:
- 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; and,
- The accused knew the complainant was under the age of sixteen or did not take reasonable steps to ascertain the complainant’s age.
As with all sexual offences, the penalties will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the offence, the characteristics of the offender and the complainant, and the presence of aggravating or mitigating factors.
The maximum penalties for such offences are up to ten years’ imprisonment where the crown proceeds via indictment, which also results in a minimum penalty of one years’ imprisonment. Should the Crown proceed summarily, the offence is punishable by up to eighteen months’ imprisonment, with a minimum penalty of ninety days’ imprisonment.
Incest, sexual relations with a family member, is prohibited under Canadian Criminal Law as a result of section 155 of the Criminal Code. A conviction for incest requires:
- Sexual intercourse;
- Between persons who are one of the following blood relations to each other: parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent or grandchild;
- It must have been known the parties were of blood relation.
Incest can only be prosecuted by indictment. Indictment has a maximum penalty of a fourteen-year term of imprisonment. Where the other family member involved is under the age of sixteen, there is a minimum penalty of five-years’ imprisonment.
Sex Offender Registration
Section 161 provides courts with the authority to make an additional restrictive order for those convicted of sexual offences involving children. Where such an offence has been committed, a “Section 161 Order” prohibits the offender’s contact with children under the age of sixteen, with the risk of additional penalties should the order be breached.
In addition, following conviction, a guilty plea, discharge or a finding of Not Responsible, the court may impose orders under Section 487 of the Criminal Code for the collection of DNA evidence. These orders attach to certain “designated” sexual offences, and allow police throughout Canada access to genetic information for the individual subject to the order. This provision also allows the Crown, with the approval of a judge, to collect DNA from an individual to investigate criminal offences.
Our office has extensive experience defending people accused of sexual offences, including offences involving children. We are often brought in at an early stage, even before charges are laid, to assist clients who are particularly vulnerable to such allegations, such as doctors, care-givers, and therapists. We believe that this demonstrates our expertise in handling these matters, and that it highlights the high regard in which we are held by those who seek our services.
Should you find yourself facing sexual assault charges in London, consider contacting our criminal department at 416-DEFENCE, or at [email protected]. We can provide you with a free consultation, and if you wish to go further, advocate on your behalf in the courts of London or throughout Ontario