If it weren’t for an RCMP application, a Saskatchewan woman may not be heading for a second trial on sexual assault charges.
Barbara George has admitted to sleeping with a 14-year-old friend of her son when she was 35 — however she maintains she believed he was 16, which is the age of consent.
According to court documents, George’s 17-year-old son was having a party at the family’s apartment, which the 14-year-old attended. George had stayed in her room for most of the party.
Once most of the teens had left, the boy went into George’s room and had a long conversation while both were sitting on the bed, which eventually evolved into sex.
George’s version of events has the boy initiating the sex and being more aggressive, while the boy’s version made the events seem more consensual.
A few months later, George applied to become a member of the RCMP and the application asks whether the applicant has ever had sex with someone under the age of 16. George then asked her son about the boy’s age for the first time, and her son replied that he was 15 or 15-and-a-half.
On the application George replied yes to the question and wrote an explanation, “He was extremely mature. We had a connection. I was very lonely. It happened once. It was so wrong, and I so regret doing so.”
The RCMP then investigated and laid charges of sexual assault and sexual interference.
The judge at Court of Queen’s Bench said he believed the sex was consensual, and that the boy was 14 at the time. The issues were whether George knew he was under 16, and whether she took all reasonable steps to ascertain his age.
The judge said he accepted George did not know the boy’s age at the time.
Ultimately, the judge decided the Crown did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George hadn’t taken all reasonable steps to ascertain his age. The judge relied on things like the boys appearance (facial hair), his association with teens who were 16 and older, that he smoked, his familiarity with sexual activity and the boy’s “cocky and callous attitude” towards sex.
The Crown appealed this decision to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in Regina. The justices on the court decided two to one that the appeal should be allowed and a new trial ordered.
In the decision written by Justice Richards, he said the Queen’s Bench judge relied too much on the boy’s appearance and demeanour at trial in making his determination, and specifically mentioning things which would have only been evident after sex, like the boy’s demeanour.