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Teen's consent 'irrelevant' in luring case

Sep 29 2012

A 16-year-old told a B.C. Supreme Court jury that three years ago she had sex with a 22-year-old man who promised to buy her a bottle of booze.

The teen, whose identity is protected by a court order, was testifying this week at the trial of Aaron Craig, who is charged with Internet luring with the intention of committing a sexual offence. He is also charged with sexually assaulting the girl, then 13, and touching her for a sexual purpose. The offences are alleged to have occurred in November 2009.

As the Crown began its case, prosecutor Leslie Baskerville told the jury that it is a criminal offence for an adult to have a sexual relationship with a person under the age of 16 if the adult knows or believes the young person is under the age of 16.

"Whether the teen consented to the sexual touching is irrelevant," she said. According to the law, "a 13year-old is incapable of consent."

In the fall of 2009, the teen was in middle school, Baskerville said. She babysat. She walked her dog. She also experimented with alcohol and considered one of her classmates to be a romantic girlfriend.

In November 2009, the teen opened an account on the social networking site Nexopia.com. She soon received a message from Craig with the greeting "You're gorgeous."

They started corresponding and arranged to meet in person. When they met, the teen told Craig where she went to school and that she was 13, Baskerville said. The girl agreed to meet Craig for a second time if he bought alcohol for her.

"She will tell you that she knew the likely price for that alcohol would be some type of sexual favour," Baskerville said.

The second time they met, they had sexual intercourse, said the prosecutor. The teen told her girlfriend what happened, and friends began talking about it at school. The matter came to the attention of police.

The girl stopped chatting online to Craig, who wanted to continue the relationship. About a month after their sexual encounter, he tried again to connect with her online. She told him to go away, Baskerville said.

"Instead, he created another Nexopia account, and hiding behind a different username, he tried to get her to his home," Baskerville said.

The jury will hear from two friends of the teen. They are expected to testify that Craig also approached them on Nexopia using the same greeting. Neither met him in person, but both confronted him online about having sexual intercourse with their friend, Baskerville said. The jury will see those online conversations.

The trial will hear evidence from police officers, including Victoria police computer expert Det. Bob Elder, as well as a Nexopia manager who forwarded the chats to police, and a specialist from Shaw.

The 16-year-old testified that the first time she met Craig in person, they walked to a liquor store, where Craig bought a mickey. They hung out and she had a few sips of alcohol before she went home.

Their online chats became more sexual, she testified. On Nov. 27, she asked Craig if he could get her some alcohol. He replied that it was a long way to go for a five-minute visit with her.

"If it's worth my time, I'll come," he said.

She reminded him she had a girlfriend.

Craig said the girlfriend didn't have to know.

"What did you think might happen?" Baskerville asked.

"I know what he wanted," the teen said. "My plan was to tell him I didn't want to."

When they met, Craig asked where they should go. They walked without talking and went into some bushes and had sexual intercourse, the teen testified. They then walked to the liquor store. She waited across the street while Craig bought her a bottle of vodka. The teen went home and never saw him again.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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