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Defend Sexual Interference Charges

Crime Statistics

The federal government has implemented laws to significantly increase the highest penalties for individuals found guilty of sexual offences involving children. These offences have evolved to become some of Canada’s most severe charges, a reflection evident in the revised sentencing standards. The 2019 Supreme Court ruling in R. v. Friesen articulated that with the elevation of maximum penalties for those convicted of sexual offences against children, corresponding sentences for offenders should also rise.

Children who Have Experienced Sexual Abuse
Canadians who Have Experienced Victimization
Abuse Perpetrated by a Parent or Step-Parent
Recent Sexual Appeals Heard by the Supreme Court

Our Experience

In 2021, the Firm represented an individual charged with two counts of sexual assault and two counts of sexual interference in Toronto as well as one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference in British Columbia in R. v. V.G. [2021]. The accused was alleged to have sexually assaulted two different young complainants roughly 30 years ago. The Firm had the B.C. charges waived to Toronto and resolved the matter globally without any jail time for the accused. This represented one of the lowest sentences in Canada. The accused was initially facing 5-7 years in jail.

In 2019, Donich Law represented an individual charged with sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching in Perth, Ontario in R. v. A.E. [2019]. The accused was alleged to have engaged in sexual activity with a family member while both individuals were children in 1985. The Firm litigated the matter for more than a year, ultimately proving that the complainant had fabricated the allegations in an attempt to gain control over a family inheritance. The defence was required to proceed to trial and conducted a contested application to vary the accused’s bail conditions. The Firm’s strategy eventually resulted in the Crown withdrawing all criminal charges.

In 2018, Donich Law represented an individual charged with invitation to sexual touching, sexual assault, and sexual interference in R. v. D.D. [2018]. The trial was held in youth court as the allegations dated back to more than 20 years prior when the accused was a young person. The Firm was able to show the complainant was inconsistent based on the evidence she gave in another proceeding, where a different family member was also simultaneously accused. The two trials with different family members proceeded together, where the Firm ultimately secured an acquittal at trial.

In 2018, Donich Law represented an individual charged with 11 counts of sexual assault and sexual interference in R. v. C.Z. [2018]. The charges were brought forward by multiple children. After months of litigation the Firm was able to raise suspicion about collusion between family members. Proceedings involving children are handle differently in the justice system, so care should be taken by defence during cross-examination. In some cases, child complainants will have to testify between a screen or in a separate room by video link. The Firm was eventually able to have 10 of the charges withdrawn.

Common Sexual Assault Defences used by Lawyers

Donich Law - International Child Pornography Investigations we have Defended

In the Firm’s R. v. T.B. [2022], it secured a dismissal of all child sexual assault charges in Oshawa. The allegations were advanced by the son of the accused for an alleged incident that occurred in 1992, when the father was alone with his son. As with many historical sexual assault charges, they involved allegations of sexual interference and invitation to sexual touching. The defence was required to bring a complex s.276 application and was ultimately successful, utilizing evidence against the complainant at trial, specifically that he was once reported to the police for sexually assaulting another family member. This argument was combined with a section 11(b) Charter application for delay in getting to trial. At trial the defence was also able to prove the complainant’s memory was affected by years of drug abuse along with the theory that revenge was a motivating factor for fabricating the allegations. The defence was able establish through testimony by the ex-wife that a bitter divorce from 30 years ago pitted the biological mother and son, against the father.

New Changes to Sexual Assault Laws in 2024

In 2017, the Firm secured a withdrawal in its R. v. M.M. [2017], of sexual assault and sexual interference allegations after three years of litigation. The allegations dated back to 1977 when the complainant was five years old. The file proceeded to the Superior Court where the Firm conducted a preliminary inquiry at the time. The Firm was able to extract evidence from the complainant regarding her alleged therapy. This information was then used by the defence as the basis for a third party records application to review the therapy notes. With the developments that followed, the Crown agreed to withdraw all charges.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Sexual Interference?

Sexual interference is a criminal offence set out under s. 151 of the Criminal Code. That provision makes it an offence for anyone to touch a person under the age of 16 directly or indirectly with a part of their body or an object for a sexual purpose. As an example of the offence, consider the following. Person A and Person B are standing next to each other at a Toronto bus stop. Person A is a 32-year-old man and Person B is a 14-year-old girl. Person A makes a sexual advance on Person B, which Person B refuses. Person A then steps closer and lays their hand on Person B’s breast. That action is sexual interference.

A person convicted of an indictable, or serious, sexual interference offence will be sentenced to a minimum of one year imprisonment and a maximum of 14 years. A persons convicted of a summary, or less serious, sexual interference offence will be sentenced to a minimum of 90 days imprisonment. The maximum sentence for summary offence sexual interference is two years less a day of imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine.

What is the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Sexual Interference?

Sexual interference is a criminal offence aimed at prosecuting offenders who engage in sexual contact with children who are under the legal age of consent. Unlike sexual assault, sexual interference is not concerned with the concept of consent. Any sexual touching of a minor, subject to some small exceptions based on the ages of the people involved, is a criminal offence regardless of whether the victim is otherwise consenting to the sexual activity.

Sexual assault is a criminal offence set out under s. 271 of the Code. It is an offence seen in cases where an offender engages in unwanted sexual activity with a victim. Many sexual assault cases occur between adults who are capable of consenting to sexual activity. However, a person charged with sexual interference may also be charged with sexual assault if the victim was effectively not consenting or otherwise resisting the sexual activity.

What are Common Types of Disclosure in Sexual Interference Cases?

Disclosure is the process by which the Crown provides a person accused of a criminal offence all the information and evidence that forms the case against them. Disclosure is a crucial part of the criminal justice process because it allows the accused to fully defend themselves from the charges against them. There are several pieces of information that are common to all types of criminal offences. These are the accused’s criminal background check, the statement of the complainant, or victim, any witness statements, and if applicable, the notes and body cam footage from the arresting officer.

The nature of sexual interference cases leads them to produce very little evidence other than the testimony of the complainant and accused. Therefore, the key part of the disclosure in these cases is the complainant’s statement. Depending on the facts of the case there may be other uncommon pieces of evidence included in the disclosure package such as a record of messages between the accused and the complainant, the testing results for a rape kit, or video or photographic evidence of the offence.

How Long Does It Take to Receive Disclosure?

The process for collecting material for disclosure begins at the police station upon arrest. The police will typically spend around a month gathering up all the available evidence of a sexual interference offence, including but not limited to the kinds of evidence mentioned above, and placing it in a file. Once that stage is complete, the file is sent to the Crown’s office. From there the Crown begins its own two-step process.

The first stage of that process is referred to as vetting. When the Crown vets a file, they are reviewing each piece of information and removing the information that the accused should not get access to. This includes the personal and medical information of the complainant, as well as the personal information of any witnesses. Sexual interference is an intimate crime and because of this, it can take a long time for the Crown to properly deal with all the information available for disclosure. Once vetting is complete, the Crown then conducts screening. Screening is where the Crown takes a position on what sentence they believe the accused should serve if they pled guilty to the offence as soon as possible. Overall, between the police and the Crown, the process of creating disclosure can take several months.

How Does a Person Charged with Sexual Interference in Toronto Get Their Disclosure Package?

The process for acquiring a disclosure package is not automatic. A person in Toronto accused of sexual interference must acquire the package themselves or through a lawyer, such as our counsel, after their first court appearance. There are two different ways to do so. First, the accused may go in-person to the Crown’s office in a Toronto courthouse to acquire a paper version of their disclosure. The procedure for how to accomplish this is specific to each individual courthouse. Physical disclosure packages are often lengthy documents between 50-100 pages long or more.

Disclosure can also be acquired in an electronic format. The accused’s lawyer can make a request for this by sending a message to emails run by the Crown. After the request is received and reviewed, the disclosure package will be made available via upload to the Ontario Disclosure Hub database.

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Recent Cases

R. v. P.R.J., 2023 BCCA 169

The British Columbia Court of Appeal case of R. v. P.R.J. explores the process of what happens when the original sentence for sexual interference offence is too light. The original 23-month conditional sentence with two years of probation was appealed by the Crown, who instead argued that four years imprisonment was a more fit sentence. The original sentence was a response to a series of sexual offences, including interference, assault, and invitation to sexual touching. The context of the offences was that the offender was the mother and sole guardian of the victim. On the night of the offence, the two were in the same bed when the intoxicated offender began touching the victim without consent. The offender also wanted the victim to perform the same acts on them.

The issue on appeal was that the sentencing judge did not give proper weight to all the aspects of the offence. It was clear that their belief was stronger sentences should be given to repeat offenders, and this was a one-time offence and a first-time offender. However, the appeal court sided with the Crown and took in a more complete view of the situation. This included the serious harm suffered by the victim, the violation of the parental relationship of trust, and the victimization of a child. The impacts of sexual offences also go beyond the victim themselves, which the appeal court noted, “The Crown has persuaded me that the judge did not consider the harms associated with child sexual offending “in a manner that reflects society’s deepening and evolving understanding of their severity” …He did not give meaningful effect to those harms. Doing so was required to properly assess the gravity of PRJ’s offending and her moral blameworthiness.” [at para 52]

R. v. Collins, 2023 ABKB 134

The Alberta Court of King’s Bench case of R. v. Collins is an example of the sentencing process for sexual interference. Here, the offender was charged and convicted of two counts of child luring and sexual interference. Both offences stemmed from the offender contacting young girls under the age of consent and beginning a relationship with them that included unprotected sex. The second set of offences occurred after the offender was arrested and released on bail for the first set instance of sexual interference.

Of note, was the fact that the offender pled guilty to the offences and that he had sought to bring a Charter challenge concerning his treatment in prison. That challenge was never brought because of a delay that was not the fault of the offender, so the Crown and defence agreed to lessen his sentence by one year to avoid the challenge. The total sentence received before credit for time served in pre-trial custody was six and a half years imprisonment.

Ancillary orders were also issued for DNA, a SOIRA order, a 10-year weapons prohibition, and an order restricting access to children for 15 years. Among the most important aspects of the case is the predatory nature of sexual interference, particularly where the victims seem willing to engage in the activity. To that effect the judge stated, “The fact that the child readily responded is an illustration of why this offence is so dangerous, and teenage girls are so vulnerable. Using social media platforms that are popular with adolescents to randomly locate and converse with a nearby child, with sexual activity in mind, must be denounced and deterred in the strongest terms.” [at para 70]

R. v. L.S., 2023 ONSC 1281

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice case of R. v. L.S. is another example of sentencing in the context of sexual interference and sexual assault. Here, the offender, a 21-year-old man, and the victim, a 15-year-old girl, engaged in sex after the victim had drunk some vodka provided to her by the offender. The victim did not consent to the activity, and the offender could not rely on the defences of mistaken belief in age or consent based on the facts accepted by the trial judge. As a result of these offences, the offender was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment, and additional orders were made concerning DNA, SOIRA, and a 10-year weapons prohibition.

As with every criminal sentence, the court must balance the principles of sentencing, as well as the individual circumstances of the offender that suggest a stronger or more lenient punishment would be fitting. The principles of sentencing include denouncing criminal conduct and deterring others from behaving similarly, but the principles also prioritize the rehabilitation of the offender. Here, the judge balanced the seriousness of the offence and the fact that the offender induced the victim’s intoxication with several mitigating factors that included a lack of a criminal record, and the offender’s genuine remorse. There was one specific circumstance of the offender’s life that lent itself to the lenient sentenced imposed. “In my view, however, there is good reason to impose upon L.S. a custodial sentence that is lower than 3 years, on account of his intellectual disability and his soon-to-be role as a father to his child with special needs.  Those circumstances, collectively, are the type of “highly mitigating factor” spoken about by the Court of Appeal for Ontario in A.J.K…. that would justify a departure from what might otherwise be the low end of the range.” [at para 34]

About the Author

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Jordan Donich

Jordan Donich has been a Lawyer for over 10 years and is a trusted legal analyst by Canadian Media. He is as a leader in Canada’s tech sector for lawyers and developer of Law Newbie. Jordan is a Black Belt with the Japan Karate Association and trained in Krav Maga. He won a Gold Medal at 2004 Canadian National Championships and was published in the National Newspaper Awards.

Jordan has been featured in Forbes and is a member of DMZ Angels in Toronto.