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CRIMINAL CODE OFFENCES - Sexual offences - Sexual exploitation - Procuring

Wednesday, June 16, 2021 @ 5:47 AM  

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Appeal by the accused, Webber, from a conviction for offences related to human trafficking and prostitution. The complainant dropped out of high school in grade 10 and moved in with an older friend who worked as an escort and introduced her to the sex trade business. The friend showed the complainant how to advertise for paid sexual services. The complainant and her friend attended a party at the accused’s home. The accused introduced the complainant to her boyfriend, who had arranged hotel rooms for the complainant’s escort work in the past. Eventually, the complainant agreed to move in with the accused on the basis that the accused represented that her boyfriend could serve as protection from their work in the sex trade. Instead, the complainant was housed at the boyfriend’s mother’s home and taken to hotels on weekends where the boyfriend and the accused arranged for the complainant to work as a prostitute, sometimes in conjunction with the accused. The accused and the boyfriend took the proceeds. The complainant testified that she was also forced into sexual activity with the accused and her boyfriend. The complainant eventually moved home and went to police after the accused threatened and slapped her. The accused testified. She acknowledged the slap and pled guilty to common assault. She denied the allegations related to prostitution and sexual activity with the complainant. The jury returned a guilty verdict. The accused appealed.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The trial judge erred in applying the law of provincial territorial jurisdiction with respect to the New Brunswick aspect of the exploitation count in finding interprovincial aspects with elements occurring in Nova Scotia. The indictment, on its face, alleged that the offence occurred within the territorial jurisdiction of New Brunswick. It could not be interpreted in a manner to confer jurisdiction upon Nova Scotia. A judicial stay was entered on that count. In addition, the trial judge erred in charging the jury on principal liability for the count related to advertising sexual services. The evidence could not support the conclusion that the accused posted any of the complainant’s advertisements and the Crown did not rely on abetting to establish the accused’s liability. A new trial was entered on that count. Finally, the trial judge erred in denying the accused’s application to cross-examine the complainant on her relationship with the accused’s boyfriend for the purpose of establishing who exercised control over the complainant. The evidence sought was directly and highly relevant to the accused’s defence and should have been admitted. The ruling impacted the accused’s right to make full answer and defence. A new trial was ordered on the three related counts.

R. v. Webber, [2021] N.S.J. No. 171, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, D.R. Beveridge, C.A. Beaton and D.P.S. Farrar JJ.A., April 27, 2021. Digest No. TLD-June142021005