ST. JOHN'S, NL — A Supreme Court justice found a Carbonear man not guilty last week of sexually assaulting and touching the daughter of a former common law spouse.
In his written ruling delivered last Thursday, Justice Alphonsus Faour said he did not question the truthfulness of the girl's testimony, but he did find the interpretation placed on the incidents she described to be unreliable. The accused cannot be identified due to a court-ordered publication ban.
"This was not a contest as to whether I should believe the complainant," he wrote. "I am satisfied that she related the incidents as she experienced them. Her interpretation of what she experienced is equally consistent with an innocent explanation of the accused's activity. My conclusion reflects the fact that proof beyond reasonable doubt is a very high standard. The complainant's recollection of what she experienced, while believable, falls short of meeting this standard."
The charges stem from two incidents that occurred approximately a year apart from one another when the victim was approximately between the ages of 10 and 13 — she's now in her mid-teens. The girl was living with another relative, but would visit and periodically stay with her mother at the accused's home.
For overnight stays, her mother would sleep on one end of a bed and her daughter on the other, with the accused between them. The mother preferred to sleep on the end in case she needed to tend to a young sibling in an adjacent crib.
In the first incident, the girl said she fell asleep fully clothed and woke up feeling pain "in my bum," and started to cry. Her back was turned to the accused and she partially turned back and waved her arm to push him away. She woke up her mother and said she had a bad dream.
The girl testified she thought the man was wearing jeans and could not say whether they were pulled down. She thought she saw his belt undone and also thought she witnessed him pull his pants up. She could not remember whether her own clothing was removed or pulled down.
The second incident revolved around a pair of weekend stays. All three were again sharing a bed. She said the man tried to touch her between her legs and on her bum. She was wearing clothes and said his hand touched her outside them, but never actually on her bum or vaginal area — at one point, a hand reached her lower abdomen. Her clothes were not removed.
The girl told her mother about the alleged incidents after the couple separated.
The accused was acquitted on a third charge of sexual exposure, as the Crown found there was insufficient evidence to proceed.