Oh Canada. It seems that every few months I come across another head-slapping instance of utter stupidity. The most recent case deals with the acquittal of a woman accused of raping a 14-year-old boy. Barbara George knew the victim through her son. She assumed the victim was older because he looked and acted “mature”.
Their sexual activity took place after the complainant entered George’s bedroom, along with George’s 14-year-old daughter, during a teenage party involving drinking at her home. The daughter eventually left, but the complainant and George, who were both not drinking, spoke alone for several hours. The trial judge found as a fact that the complainant initiated their first kiss and the sexual intercourse that followed. He also found as a fact that George, although “reluctant at first,” was a willing participant in the sexual intercourse that followed the kissing.
The appellant did not find out the boy’s age until months later when she asked her son.
If that sounds very convenient that is because it likely is something the woman concocted as a defense. Granted, it is entirely possible that she did not know the boy’s age. However, Canadian law is pretty clear on that matter:
Mistake of age
(4) It is not a defence to a charge under section 151 or 152, subsection 160(3) or 173(2), or section 271, 272 or 273 that the accused believed that the complainant was 16 years of age or more at the time the offence is alleged to have been committed unless the accused took all reasonable steps to ascertain the age of the complainant.
Based on George’s statements, she made no attempt to confirm the boy’s age until well after the incident. So this should be a moot point.
But of course, this is a woman in Canada and the Canadian government is abjectly against prosecuting and convicting women of abusing children no matter what the law states. So of course the judge acquitted George based on the claim that George did not know the boy’s age:
The Crown argued at the Supreme Court that the trial judge misinterpreted s. 150.1(4). “Instead of considering whether the appellant had taken all reasonable steps to ascertain the boy’s age, the trial judge focused on whether there was an objective basis for her belief the boy was old enough to have sex with,” the Crown argued in its factum.
“Instead of asking whether she had taken all reasonable steps to ascertain the boy’s age, the trial judge listed reasons why a person might think the boy was 16 years or older at the time of the encounter even when some of those reasons would not have been apparent to any person at the time of the sexual encounter. Moreover, the trial judge erred by relying on evidence that was not probative or relevant to the legal test enunciated in s. 150.1(4).”
This is despite the unquestionable clarity of the law. There is really no other way to interpret it. Assuming a child’s age does not absolve one of responsibility. Even if the child lies about their age a person is still subject to prosecution if they fail to verify it.
The Crown managed to appeal the acquittal to the Supreme Court, yet the Court upheld the judge’s ruling. The members of the five-panel court released an explanation of their May decision. It is a thing to behold:
Today the Supreme Court reasoned that, “the more reasonable an accused’s perception of the complainant’s age, the fewer steps reasonably required of them.”
“In some cases, it may be reasonable to ask a partner’s age. It would be an error, however, to insist that a reasonable person would ask a partner’s age in every case,” the decision reads. “Conversely, it would be an error to assert that a reasonable person would do no more than ask a partner’s age in every case, given the commonly recognized motivation for young people to misrepresent their age.”
In short, it is perfectly okay for someone to just assume a child is of the age of consent because no reasonable person would ask the child’s age in every instance. Yet in the very next sentence they argue that simply taking the child’s word is not enough.
The explanation makes zero sense. Either a reasonable person would ask or they would not. In this particular circumstance, there was no reason for George not ask. Most parents ask questions about their children’s friends, particularly those they do not know well.
Likewise, based on her actions one could infer that she suspected the boy was not over 16. The reason George ended up in court is because she attempted to become a mounty and had to answer a question regarding sex with someone under 16. George asked her son the boy’s age and reported the answer on the application.
If George honestly believed that the boy was of legal age, her actions make no sense. She would have answered in the negative and been done with it. It seems more likely that she either suspected or knew the boy was younger.
But all of that is a moot point now. George gets away with violating the law by using an excuse the law was specifically written to address. And let us not pretend that this would have worked if the accused had been male. There are dozens of cases of men meeting underage girls in clubs and bars who still faced conviction despite having every reason to assume the girls were of age.
Yet when the perpetrator is female, any and every excuse is acceptable.