A Surrey man has been cleared of charges he sexually abused his stepdaughter.
On Monday afternoon (May 27), Judge James Sutherland acquitted the accused of four charges – sexual interference of a person under 16, sexual exploitation, sexual assault and assault.
The man cannot be named as there is a publication ban on anything that could identify the alleged victim.
During the trial in February in Surrey Provincial Court, the complainant, who is now 14 years old, testified that her stepfather sexually abused her in the family home when she was between the ages of nine and 12.
She claimed that he would touch her breasts and vagina when he tucked her in bed at night and made her touch his penis on several occasions. The girl also said her stepdad punched her in the face in the fall of 2010.
In his defence, the accused testified the incidents simply did not happen. He denied ever touching his stepdaughter sexually or hitting her, although he admitted he may have raised his voice or called her names when disciplining her.
He testified that he wouldn’t even hug or kiss her at bedtime because “she wasn’t that type of kid.” The girl shared a bedroom with one sister, who never saw anything, and abuse the teen alleged took place in the living room would have been in plain sight of another sister in an adjoining room, said the man.
Judge Sutherland said the case came down to who he found more credible – the man or the girl. He said though he felt the stepdad was evasive at times, there was nothing to cause him to doubt his testimony.
Sutherland said he had concerns about the teen’s reliability. He said the events she described were “violent and invasive and no doubt very dramatic,” often involving verbal exchanges, and yet her sisters who were nearby never witnessed any of it.
The judge said there was a lack of evidence to confirm the allegations, leaving him with reasonable doubt and by law, no choice but to acquit the accused.
The girl’s family was visibly disappointed by the acquittal, while supporters of the man shed tears of relief outside the courtroom.