After two days of testimony from a 16-year-old girl and the 23-year-old man she accused of sexually assaulting her, Justice Richard Danyliuk found the Prince Albert man not guilty on all four criminal charges he faced Thursday afternoon in Court of Queen’s Bench.
In his oral decision delivered shortly after 1:40 p.m., Danyliuk emphasized that especially in cases involving sexual assault allegations, the standard of proof incumbent upon the Crown prosecutor is to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for the person accused.
The Crown failed to do that, Danyliuk ruled, although he highlighted the fact that “not guilty is not the same as a finding of innocence.”
The girl alleged three different incidents in which she said the man, known to her and her family, sexually assaulted her three different times, beginning each assault with verbal pressure and groping around her back, hips and thigh areas.
“I felt like everything had been taken away from me. I was empty. I really didn’t know what was going on. I was confused,” she testified Wednesday morning.
Now 16 years old, she was 13 and 14 years old when the alleged assaults took place. During that time, she believed the man to be in the range of 21 to 23 years old.
As per Canadian law, the girl’s identity is protected by a publication ban, because she’s an alleged victim of sexual assault.
The accused man’s defence lawyer, Lori Johnston-Clarke also requested a publication ban on her client’s name and identity, because of the nature of the offence and because of the victim’s name, she said. Danyliuk granted her request.
During her testimony and cross-examination Wednesday, the girl sat behind a screen she requested to obscure her view of the man.
She described how the first alleged incident started with a game of hide and seek in her father’s home on an afternoon in October or November in 2014.
She hid under a blanket when he found her and “got under the blankets with me. He began kissing me and getting close to me. I didn’t like it … he was kissing me on my lips, touching my waste and my hips,” she testified.
The girl got out from under the blankets, ended the game of hide and seek and occupied herself with cleaning the home, she said.
Later that evening in her bedroom, the man approached her and started kissing and groping her, “pushing me up against something,” she testified. “He was pressuring me to have sex with him,” she alleged.
“He just kept pressuring me and pressuring me and pressuring me. Finally I just gave up and stopped resisting. We had sex,” she said from the stand.
She confirmed to Crown Prosecutor Tyrel Taylor that’s not what she wanted to happen. She told Taylor she believes she did not give the accused man consent to touch her or have sex with her during any of the three alleged assaults.
The complainant wore a dark grey black top, black pants and black sneakers during her testimony Wednesday. She wore her black hair long, about two inches past her shoulders and with gold highlights.
Broad-shouldered and of a medium height, the accused wore a royal blue, button-up dress shirt with black dress pants and black shoes on Wednesday. He wore his black hair short, and he was clean-shaven, save for the patchy, long stubble of a moustache yet to fully fill in. On Thursday, he wore the same, changing only his blue dress shirt for a white one.
When he testified on the stand on Thursday, the man refuted that he had sex with girl, that he sexually touched her or was alone with her during any time.
When the trial began Wednesday morning, the man pleaded not guilty to all four charges he faced.
During his cross-examination of the man, Taylor tried to challenge his credibility by arguing that it didn’t make sense for the man to choose living arrangements with the girl’s family over those of his own family.
“(The girl’s home) had more of a comfortable setting to sleep on,” he said, noting her home had more blankets than those being used at his family’s home, and it had a carpeted floor (as opposed to a hard-surface floor).
The man’s testimony finished shortly before 12 p.m. on Thursday.
When reading his final decision, Danyliuk referenced “recent high-profile cases that created some calls that put the standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt into question, creating some views that (those standards) should be watered down.
“In my view that is wrong,” he said. “To blindly accept every accusation is fool hardy.”
Along with his finding, he said he found there to be inconsistencies in the testimonies given by the girl and the man, the only two witnesses called for the trial.
Some of the girl’s inconsistencies went to the core of her testimony, including the number of assaults she alleged to police versus the number testified to in court, he said.
But he also noted, “In fairness to (her), she was very young when this happened. I do not think the complainant was lying. I do not think she was trying to deceive the court.”
He also explained that he did not believe or “totally accept some parts of the accused’s testimony,” including certain living arrangements he chose over others in the Prince Albert area.
Still, Danyliuk referenced a Saskatchewan Court of Appeal case (R. v. McKenzie) and a Supreme Court of Canada case (R. v. W.(D.)) in which the burden of proof in specific sexual assault cases was challenged and upheld in each respective court.
“Reasonable doubt must be in the favour of the accused,” he said.
After the trial ended, Johnston-Clarke said she, the man and his family were happy with the end result, but that the entirety of the trial was extremely difficult and hard on everyone.
“There are never any real winners in sexual assault trials,” she said.