Vernon man avoids prison after pleading guilty to sexual interference of a child

No prison for sex with child

A Vernon man will avoid a prison cell and has been given a conditional sentence of two years less a day and 18 months of probation for having sex with a 14 year old girl when he was 19.

The identities of both the girl and the offender are protected under a publication ban that prevents releasing any details that would identify the victim.

This story will refer to the man as SV and his victim as AB, which are not their real initials.

Believes she said no

On the evening of October 28, 2022 the girl, who was in a relationship with the man’s roommate, visited and smoked cannabis with both men in their shared room. That room had a set of bunks and when the boyfriend left to go to the store hours later, the girl and SV were left alone.

Crown prosecutor Jane Park told the court that the two then began talking and SV interpreted the conversation as an invitation to go to the top bunk.

“The accused joined the complainant and began cuddling and touching her breasts. The complainant began shaking and believed she had indicated ‘no’,” said Park.

Park told the court the 19 year old testified he did not hear the girl say anything and proceeded to have sexual intercourse with her. When AB awoke the next morning in the top bunk, it was her boyfriend who was beside her.

SV was arrested days later and charged with sexual assault and sexual interference of a person under 16, and has been abiding to all bail conditions since then. Conditions included a curfew, abstaining from drugs and alcohol and not being around anyone 16 years of age or younger. Those conditions forced SV from his home as younger children were living there.

Guilty plea

SV entered a guilty plea to the count of sexual interference, while the charge of sex assault was dropped, and defence counsel Laura McPheeters took time to clarify her client's admission of guilt.

“SV hasn’t admitted to any forceful behaviour, what he’s admitted to is being wrong on the law. He did turn his mind to the close-in-age exception, he had graduated high school and had taken some law classes and he was aware of that exception.”

McPheeters continued, “He was 19 years old and he knew AB was 14 years old and he thought he was OK. He made a mistake in law and he was five years and six months older than AB.”

A 14 or 15 year old can consent to sexual activity in Canada as long as the partner is less than five years older and there is no relationship of trust, authority or dependency or any other exploitation of the young person.

McPheeters went on to suggest SV should not be treated as a sexual predator for his misunderstanding of the law.

The girl has since moved away from the community and a decision was made not to read her victim impact statement out loud in her absence.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Guild agreed to joint submission from the Crown and defence of a conditional sentence, or house arrest, of two years less a day.

Judges in Canada are bound to respect joint submissions, unless they believe the proposed sentence brings the “administration of justice into disrepute” and would lead a typical person to believe there is a “breakdown in the proper function of the justice system.”

More Vernon News