North Vancouver teen guilty of aggravated sexual assault at grad party

A North Vancouver teenager has been found guilty of aggravated sexual assault and forcible confinement of a teenage girl during an unsanctioned grad party held at a downtown nightclub in February 2016.

The youth, who was 16 at the time, has also been found guilty of sexual assault of another teen girl in October 2015 in North Vancouver.

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Judge Paul Meyers delivered his verdict in the case Wednesday morning. The decision follows a trial that began in youth court last May.

Both teen complainants testified during the trial, as did the accused and a number of witnesses who went to the grad party at Encore Dance Club on Granville Street, attended by teens from several North Vancouver high schools.

The identities of the accused, complainants and witnesses in the trial are all shielded by a publication ban.

The complainant in the nightclub assault, who was 17 at the time, testified the youth trapped her in a large women’s washroom stall in the downtown club on the night of the grad party and locked the door, then sexually assaulted her.

Several friends found the girl in the stall afterwards. A police officer who was first on the scene testified she found the girl shaking and crying. Soon after police arrived, the girl was taken to hospital by ambulance.

The male youth said the sex was consensual.

In reaching his verdict, Meyers said Wednesday he considered the testimony of both the accused and the teen girl, as well as evidence of other witnesses who spoke to her immediately after the assault. He also considered the evidence of a doctor who examined the girl at the hospital.

Meyers said he also took into account the behaviour of the youth in leaving the bathroom stall immediately after the incident and the complainant’s emotional state when other girls found her in the bathroom.

“At the end of the day, I did not believe (the youth),” said the judge, adding he did believe the teenaged girl.

The second complainant testified during the trial that on a separate occasion, the youth forced sexual activity on her on the lawn outside his North Vancouver home after she told him she was not interested. In that case, the youth also said the girl agreed to the sexual activity.

Meyers described that case as a “he said she said.” But he pointed to the youth’s attempts to explain away apologies he later sent to the girl as a major weakness in his evidence. Meyers said the text messages were clearly an apology “for his behaviour that night.”

Defence lawyers had challenged the girl’s version of events, Meyers said, pointing out that she had not reported the incident until over four months after it happened. But Meyers said he accepted the girl’s reasons that she was embarrassed and “she didn’t think anything could be done about it.”

He said he didn’t believe the youth’s version of events that night.

The youth sat with his head in his hands as the judge delivered the verdict.

About 20 people, including family and friends of the accused, attended court to hear the verdict.

The next hearing in the case has been set for February, when the judge will consider pre-sentence, psychological and psychiatric reports and decide whether the youth should be sentenced in youth court or in adult court.

In cases of serious crimes, a Crown prosecutor can apply to have a youth sentenced as an adult, which carries a potentially heavier sentence. Outside of court, defence lawyer Brock Martland said he would oppose any application to sentence the youth as an adult.

Martland said, “In any serious case with difficult issues, we would always take time to study the reasons for judgment and consider whether it’s appropriate to bring an appeal or not. At this point we simply haven’t done that work. It’s something we will be doing.”

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