Understanding the degrees of sexual offences under Canada Law is essential. A person charged with sexual interference must have the facts to understand how the court process works. Anyone facing criminal charges relating to sexual acts should hire an experienced defence lawyer as soon as possible.
What Is Sexual Interference?
Sexual interference is a type of sexual assault. It involves touching a person under the age of consent in a sexual way. The legal age of consent in Canada is 16. Sexual exploitation charges may also apply to a person younger than 18 if the accused is in a position of trust or authority (a teacher, guardian, or family member, for example).
What Can Determine Sexual Purpose?
According to the Canadian criminal code, the sexual purpose is defined as intentional and purposeful contact for sexual gratification.
How Is Sexual Interference Different from Invitation to Sexual Touching?
Invitation to sexual touching is a similar offence, but the two are not interchangeable. It refers to a person asking, inviting, or otherwise inciting a person under the age of consent to touch a part of the body in a sexual manner. A person can be charged with both crimes separately.
How Do These Charges Compare to Other Sexual Offences?
Sexual assault charges vary depending on a number of factors, including but not limited to, the age of the complainant, the relationship with the accused (i.e. a person in a position of trust). Different types of sexual assault charges include sexual interference, sexual exploitation, voyeurism, child pornography.
What Type of Offence Is Sexual Interference Under the Canada Criminal Code?
Interfering with the physical and sexual integrity of a minor in any way is a criminal offence under Canadian law. This type of charge is a hybrid offence. It is at the discretion of the Crown prosecutor how to proceed, and the court cannot intervene in any way. There are two possible levels they can move to.
Summary conviction offences are the least serious in Canadian law. They are not eligible for a preliminary hearing, and there is no jury present at the trial. If the Crown elected to proceed summarily, then the matter will proceed in the Ontario Court of Justice before a Judge.
An indictable offence is far more serious. A trial must be held in front of the judge and/or jury. Eligibility for a preliminary hearing is dependent on the nature of the crime. Depending on the severity of the offence, the defendant may or may not have the right to a preliminary hearing. It is an offence punishable by significant jail time.
Standard Punishment for Sexual Interference
Sexual interference of any kind carries a punishment. The mandatory minimum punishment and maximum penalty depend on how the Crown prosecutor tries the case. If they prosecute summarily, the defendant can expect to serve a jail sentence. The mandatory minimums relating to this charge have been successfully challenged, making them of no force or effect.
When it comes to an offence proceeding by indictment, the minimum sentence is one year in prison. The maximum jail time is 14 years. It is essential to hire an experienced criminal defence team if facing an indictment of this nature. If found guilty, the defendant must also join Sex Offender Information Registration Act (SOIRA) and adhere to all associated rules.
Defending Against Sexual Interference Charges
If charged with sexual interference, there are several defences the legal team can take, although much relies on the details of the case.
The Consent Defence
Consent is not a legal criminal defence in Canada when it concerns sexual activity with a minor. It is not always legally possible for anyone below the age of 16 years old to consent to sexual activity. The only time consent can be considered relevant is:
- If the defendant is less than five years older than the complainant (two years older if the complainant’s age is 12 or 13) AND
- The defendant is not in a position of trust AND
- The relationship is not deemed to be exploitative
Honest but mistaken belief of age can only be used as a defence if there is sufficient proof that the accused took all reasonable steps to ascertain the truthful age of the complainant. Steps include questioning the age, asking for proof of age, and confirming the age with another person.
There are cases when it can be argued that the contact was accidental. Again, evidence to support the claim is essential. Cross-examination of the complainant usually plays a significant role in any type of defence.
If the defendant can prove that the touching was of a non-sexual nature, the charges may be avoided. There are cases when the touching of a young person is not for any sexual purpose, but there must be substantial cause for this defence to succeed. Cross-examination is, again, an essential element in this case.
When to Hire a Criminal Defence Lawyer
A criminal lawyer is a necessity in any sexual assault case including sexual interference. Without experienced legal guidance, the accused is exposed to serious consequences including, a jail sentence, criminal record, and SOIRA registration.
By hiring an experienced criminal lawyer at the very beginning of the case, the accused gives themselves the best chance at a successful defence. The possibility of being acquitted of a sexual interference charge without a lawyer is significantly low.
If you have been charged with a sexual offence, it is essential that you contact the best criminal defence law firm. Do not wait to get in contact- call today to arrange a free consultation to discuss the case and how best to proceed.
Canadian law is tough on those accused of sexual assault to any degree, so it is imperative to build a strong defence as early as possible with the help of experts.