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Sexual Assault Charges Alberta: Charges Withdrawn

I recently represented a man charged with sexual assault in Red Deer, Alberta. The complainant said that she woke up to unwanted sexual contact, emphasizing the lack of consent. She said my client was related to her boyfriend. They had all been to a party together. At the party, they all had drinks. She said she had woken up when my client asked her if he could sleep on the couch. She stated he woke her up a second time to ask her to tell him when she was going to leave. She said that she fell back asleep. She stated that she woke up to him touching her in a sexual nature without permission, highlighting the violation of her consent.

My client said that she was into him and had been flirting all night, suggesting there was mutual interest in engaging in sexual activity. He said she wanted to have sex and they did. She then gave him a ride home and he thought that they would hang out again later. This incident raises concerns of sexual interference, particularly given the legal implications surrounding consent, age of consent, and the nature of the allegations.

Unbeknownst to him, the complainant reported that he raped her. She went to the Red Deer Hospital and participated in a sexual assault examination kit. Multiple items of evidence were seized from her body. She told the RCMP who my client was and how to contact him so that they could arrest and charge him with sexual assault.

Officers attempted to speak with my client to get a statement. The RCMP also obtained a polygraph test from the complainant. My client was advised on his legal rights, and did not provide a statement and did not participate in a polygraph test. [It is important to understand that polygraph examination/results are not admissible in court.]

Exploring this Sexual Assault Charge According to the Criminal Code

In this case, there were several pieces of critical items that were required to be disclosed to me as his criminal defence lawyer. These items were lost or destroyed. This enabled me to argue that my client’s rights were impacted to a degree that offended the administration of justice.

After several meetings with the Crown prosecutor and several pre-trial conferences, the prosecutor eventually withdrew the charge.

Sexual assault accusations are very serious. In Alberta, the caselaw indicates that judges should start at 3 years imprisonment when considering a fit and proper sentence for major sexual assaults, which involves penetration or serious psychological harm. This could have been classified under major sexual assaults if certain conditions were met. Aggravated sexual assault, a severe form of sexual assault that involves bodily harm or endangers the life of the victim, falls under this category. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that the Alberta starting point sentence is nothing but a guide for our courts.

However, no person should face any type of imprisonment when he or she engages in consensual and therefore legal sexual activities. In 2022, The Globe and Mail published an article explaining the number of sexual assault allegations that were being dropped by law enforcement was down to 8%. The last reported article pertaining to “unfounded accusations” was published in 2017 which at that time indicated 19% of reported sexual assault accusations were deemed unfounded.

Whether or not an accusation is false or the notion that women make false accusations is a controversial subject. Myths and stereotypes about how a sexual assault victim will react, about reporting, and their prior sexual history are prohibited grounds of examination in trials. Our courts have discussed false accusations and crown prosecutors have argued that defence lawyers should not be allowed to cross-examine or admit evidence of a false accusation as they claim this is a myth and stereotype.

If you have been charged with a sexual offence, contact our lawyers at Alberta Legal today.

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