Sexual exploitation is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada (“Criminal Code”). Under Section 153 of the Criminal Code, adults can be charged with this crime for sexual activity with someone who is 16 or 17 years old.
Age of Consent in Canada
In Canada, a person who is aged 16 or older is considered old enough to consent to sexual activity. However, the Criminal Code allows adults to be charged with a criminal offence if they have been involved in sexual activity with a young person under the age of 18 in specific circumstances.
Section 153(1) of the Criminal Code reads as follows:
153 (1) Every person commits an offence who is in a position of trust or authority towards a young person, who is a person with whom the young person is in a relationship of dependency, or who is in a relationship with a young person that is exploitative of the young person, and who
(a) for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of the young person;
(b) or for a sexual purpose, invites, counsels, or incites a young person to touch, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, the body of any person, including the body of the person who so invites, counsels or incites and the body of the young person.
The relationship between the two people may have developed in-person or online. A young person may be exploited over the internet by being invited, counselled, or incited to touch themselves while being viewed by another person.
Upon conviction, sexual exploitation carries a minimum sentence of 90 days in jail if the Crown elects to proceed summarily and a maximum jail term of two years less a day. The minimum penalty for an indictable sexual exploitation charge is one year in jail, and the maximum penalty is 14 years in prison.
Position of Trust
Section 153(1) refers to someone being in “a position of trust or authority towards a young person,” but what does this mean? Someone could be in a position of trust or authority because of their relationship with the young person, such as a parent or step-parent. In other cases, a person’s job can place them in this category. Examples include:
- Police officers
- Ministers or priests
The court is given a lot of leeway when determining whether a person in a relationship with a young person is exploitative of the young person. Section 153(1.2) of the Criminal Code allows the court to consider:
- The young person’s age
- The age difference between the accused and the young person
- How the relationship between the two of them developed over time
- The level of “control or influence” the accused has or had over the young person
Sexual Exploitation Defence Lawyer Strategies
An accused person can’t merely use the defence that they simply believed the young person was over 18 due to their physically mature appearance. To use this defence, the accused would have to take “reasonable steps” to determine the complainant’s age. These include, but are not limited to, asking them how old they are and, in certain circumstances, even asking to see their identification.
It’s crucial to mount a vigorous defence to a sexual exploitation charge as the consequences of a conviction are devastating. The Crown must prove that the adult is in a position of “trust or authority” over the younger person and that the younger person “is dependent” or “being exploited.” A criminal defence lawyer will want to hear their client’s version of how the relationship developed and whether the complainant’s version of facts is accurate or can be challenged. A defence can also be advanced on the basis that the accused denies there was any sexual touching, inviting, counselling, or inciting of same. Assuming their client denies the allegations, a good criminal defence lawyer may be able to successfully challenge the credibility (i.e., believability) and reliability (i.e., accuracy) of the complainant to create a reasonable doubt and win at trial.
Defence counsel will want to know the circumstances of the sexual touching, including:
- Whether any sexual conversation or activity even took place
- When the event occurred
- Where it happened (online or in-person)
- Whether the accused said anything at the time
- If the complainant said anything
- What part(s) of the body were involved
- If an object was involved, what was it? How was it used?
Sexual Exploitation Defence Lawyers in Toronto and Throughout Ontario
It’s not uncommon for Canadians to meet potential romantic or sexual partners online. However, an adult who meets a young person on the internet could potentially find themselves facing sexual exploitation charges and the prospect of a jail sentence. An adult also has to be very careful regarding how they conduct themselves around anyone under 18 years old to avoid these types of charges or false allegations. If you are facing charges of sexual exploitation or any other sexually based crime, do not put your future in jeopardy. The experienced and knowledgeable sexual exploitation defence lawyers at Kruse Law will work diligently to make sure your case has the best possible defence.
Schedule a free consultation or call toll-free 1-800-699-0806 to speak with one of our professionals today.