Defending Against Charges of Sexual Interference

July 2, 2021

Sexual interference involves indirect or direct touching for sexual purposes of a person under the age of consent. In Canada, the age of consent is generally 16 years of age, though it can be up to 18 if the other person involved is in a position of trust or authority over the person.

We’ll discuss the legal definition of sexual interference in the criminal code and discuss the penalties involved if you are convicted. We’ll also look into the strategies a criminal lawyer can use in your defence of charges of sexual interference.

What is Sexual Interference?

According to Section 151 of the Canadian Criminal Code, sexual interference is defined as:

(151) Every person who, for a sexual purpose, touches, directly or indirectly, with a part of the body or with an object, any part of the body of a person under the age of 16 years

  • (a) is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of one year; or
  • (b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than two years less a day and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of 90 days.

Sexual Interference vs. Sexual Assault

Charges of sexual interference and sexual assault are similar but different charges. Essentially sexual interference is more specific and must involve the accused touching victims under the age of 16 for an intended sexual purpose. With sexual assault, the touching only needs to be sexual in nature. 

Minimum and Maximum Penalties

If you are convicted of this sexual offence, there are minimum and maximum penalties. 

If you are convicted through a summary conviction, the minimum imprisonment sentence is 90 days. If you are convicted through indictment, the minimum penalty is one year. The maximum sentence for both offences is 14 years in prison. 

Registering As A Sex Offender

Along with a prison sentence, if you are convicted of sexual interference, you will also be registered in the federal National Sex Offender Registry or NSOR in the province where you live. The police will have access to your name, address and the crime you have been found guilty of. You must report any chance of your address to the registry and keep your information up to date or face criminal charges. 

Prohibition Orders

A judge may also put you under a prohibition order to prevent you from being in contact with individuals under 16. A prohibition order could also include other restrictions such as preventing you from being in parks or around anyone under the age of 16 and any employment that involves individuals under the age of 16. These prohibition orders are at the discretion of the judge and could last a few months, a year, or for the rest of your life. 

How Lawyers Defend Against Allegations of Sexual Misconduct

To prove that sexual interference occurred, the Crown prosecutor must prove that the touching was intentional and for a sexual purpose and that the accused knew the person was below the age of consent or did not take reasonable steps to determine their age. The crown can use evidence such as the body part touched or words or gestures that took place with the touching. 

Your lawyer will defend your case by doing a thorough investigation and looking into the accuser’s background and any relevant details, such as the nature of your relationship and any history between you. 

Common defences of sexual misconduct include:

  • Mistake of age – Your lawyer may show that it was reasonable to assume the complainant was over the age of 16 if, for example, you met them at a business conference instead of a high school party.
  • Unintentional touching – you can prove that the touching was not intentional, for example, on a crowded bus.
  • Touching for a non-sexual purpose – You can prove the touching was for a non-sexual purpose, such as medical treatment or other health-related reasons.

In many cases, it comes down to the specific circumstances of each case. A lawyer experienced in defending cases of sexual interference can help determine the best method of defence. 

If you or a family member is facing sexual interference allegations, you need an experienced criminal lawyer to defend your case and help you avoid costly penalties. William Jaksa has over ten years of experience as a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto. Talk to him today for a consultation on your case.

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