A 43-year-old man who denied having a sexual relationship with his teenage stepdaughter was convicted of six child sex-related charges in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Wednesday, with the judge calling his testimony “contrived, insincere and glib.”
Justice Vikas Khaladkar convicted the man on two counts of sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference and two counts of sexual exploitation while in a position of trust or authority.
The victim, who is now a young adult, testified she had gotten out of the shower one day when she was 15 and noticed a camera in one of her shoes in her bedroom. Upon playing the recording it contained, she saw her stepfather setting the camera up, so she confronted him about it. The young woman said she told her stepfather she had had a sexual encounter with his brother months earlier. Her stepfather told her that if he went to the police with that information, the family would likely split up, the woman’s mother would hate her and her pet dog would die.
Later, the woman said, her stepfather made a list of pros and cons of going to the authorities, and one of the items on the list was, “My brother got to touch you, why not me?”
A couple of months later, on a night when other family members had gone to bed, the man suggested he and the woman play a drinking game, and started to massage her pelvic area before leading her to the basement. They had intercourse, she testified, and did so at least every second day after that. The incidents were often aggressive, she said, and she was injured at least once.
While the woman told the court the intercourse was “not against my will,” she was not legally able to consent to it. By law, a person under the age of 16 cannot give consent to a person more than four years older than they are. If the sexual activity includes elements such as anal sex, payment or pornography, or involves a person in a position of trust or authority, the age of consent is 18 years. All sexual activity without consent is unlawful.
The young woman said she had tried to end the relationship many times, but her stepfather became “cold and hateful,” giving her the silent treatment until she had sex with him. He started monitoring her cellphone and sometimes took it away, she said. He called her names and contacted her friends.
“The accused told her that he was going to take everything away from her, that it was his house and that he would make the rules,” Khaladkar wrote. “(The complainant) said that she felt backed into a corner.”
The woman eventually told her mother everything. Her mother kicked the stepfather out and went to the police.
The man was charged, and so was his brother. After a weeklong trial in provincial court last summer, the brother was acquitted of six child-sex charges.
During the stepfather’s trial, he told the court he had not had intercourse with the teenager, but she had threatened to tell the police he had molested her if he went to them with the information about her and his brother.
“Defence counsel urged me to consider the motive for (the complainant’s) disclosure to be related to the fact the accused was exercising parental authority, contacting persons he considered to be disreputable or improper acquaintances with a view to dissuading them from associating with his stepdaughter, and confiscating her telephone. The rage felt by the complainant as a result of the assaults on her personal independence, it is suggested, led to the disclosure to (her mother),” Khaladkar wrote.
“Crown counsel suggested the accused took advantage of his 15-year-old stepdaughter when she made an admission to him concerning a sexual dalliance with (his brother). Counsel suggested that the accused then groomed the complainant and treated her as his mistress for the next three years.”
Khaladkar ultimately sided with the Crown, asking the accused to stand in the courtroom Wednesday before telling him, “I find the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt all the charges against you.”
The man will be back in court for a sentencing hearing in June, allowing the court time to conduct a pre-sentence report.