A man accused of sexually assaulting and raping his daughter throughout her teenage years was acquitted on Monday after the judge said he found inconsistencies that raised a reasonable doubt.
"It is not a credibility contest between the complainant and the accused, but rather whether, in the end based on all the admissible evidence, the Crown has met the burden upon it to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt," Justice Scott Abel said while delivering his decision in the Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench to an emotional crowd in the gallery — some of which cried in disbelief while others cheered quietly in favour of the decision.
"It is important to emphasize that does not necessarily equate to finding that the complainant was untruthful or the accused was credible … I have found a reasonable doubt, and the accused is entitled to the benefit of that doubt."
The man, who cannot be named due to a publication ban put in place to protect the identity of the daughter, pleaded not guilty during a trial in February to sexual assault, sexual exploitation, incest and sexual interference.
His daughter, now 17 years old, testified her father started molesting her when she was approximately 10 or 11 years old and continued over the course of five years, growing in severity from digitally penetrating her vagina to vaginal and anal intercourse.
Her mother testified that her daughter disclosed the abuse to her three times — the first after she found her husband in her daughter’s room in his underwear, the second after finding her daughter’s secret stash of razor blades and confronted her about her self-harming behaviour, and the final time when she kicked her husband out after her daughter told her the man was "doing it again."
The father testified that the alleged assaults didn’t happen and that it was him who broke up with his ex — sick of constant fighting over money and accusations of infidelity.
While Abel said he did not believe the man’s evidence, there were inconsistencies in the evidence of the girl and her mother that were cause for concern.
There were discrepancies between the girl’s testimony and her first statement regarding the version of events that went beyond discrepancies one would expect from a youth recalling a traumatic event that occurred some time ago, Abel said.
The girl also did not testify or mention the incident surrounding the razor blades, which Abel said was "troubling."
Evidence the girl put forward in court regarding a time her father assaulted her when she was sleeping in her younger sister’s bed also raised concern, Abel said, adding it went against her testimony that he was careful and cautious when he sexually assaulted her.
"The inconsistencies that I’ve outlined are not simply those one would expect from a child witness relating a series of ongoing sexual assaults," Abel said. "These inconsistencies go to the heart of the allegations against the accused. They cannot be explained away by the youth of the complainant or the understandable difficulty a young witness would have in related events of this nature … (they) are of such a nature that I am left with a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused."
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