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Defence suggests 13-year-old hid her age

Oct 10 2012

The teenager at the centre of an Internet luring trial in B.C. Supreme Court was recalled to the witness stand Tuesday to allow the defence a chance to ask more questions.

The 16-year-old, whose identity is protected by a court order, testified two weeks ago at Aaron Craig's jury trial. Craig, 25, is charged with sexually assaulting the girl in the fall of 2009, when she was 13, and touching for a sexual purpose.

Her appearance was brief. Defence lawyer Chris Brennan suggested the girl did not tell Craig she was in Grade 8 when she met him.

"I did," she replied in a loud, clear voice.

"I suggest you did tell Mr. Craig you were 16 years of age," said Brennan.

"I did not," she replied. As he began the case for the defence, Brennan told the jury the significant issue in the case is what information Craig was given about the girl's age.

"The two issues that follow from that are credibility and reasonable doubt."

Craig is under no obligation to testify, said Brennan. "Because of the issues of credibility and believability, there is nothing for him to answer to."

Brennan called four witnesses for the defence - two girls who had gone to school with the teen, a teaching assistant and a school counsellor. The names of all the witnesses are protected by a publication ban.

On Tuesday, the first classmate testified that in grades 6 and 7, the teen was doing well and got good grades in school. But in the fall of 2009, things changed.

The girl testified that she saw her friend drunk at school once. On another occasion, she saw her friend with some marijuana in pill form.

"It only happened one time," she testified.

Brennan asked if she remembered confronting her friend when the girl told her she had been involved sexually with a man. Yes, the classmate replied. "She treated it pretty seriously."

A second classmate testified that in the fall of 2009, she heard rumours about her friend's contact with a guy on the social networking site Nexopia.

"I asked her over Face-book if it happened," the girl recalled. "She said 'Yes.' "

The classmate testified that she was discussing the incident with three other friends in the classroom when the teacher's assistant heard something and suggested they go outside.

A lot of information was blurted out at once, the girl recalled. "There were discussions about what happened between her and Aaron."

The teacher's assistant testified that the teen was well adjusted, competent and very funny, but she did notice a change in the fall of 2009.

The assistant told the court she was marking papers on Dec. 18, 2009, and heard one of the girls talking and noticed a crowd around her. She pulled the four girls out of the classroom to defuse the situation. The girls were worried about their friend, she recalled. "They discussed an occurrence that happened."

The assistant testified she knew the teen had brought alcohol to school in a water bottle.

Under cross-examination, the assistant told the Crown that the teen did not look older than her classmates and did not try to act older than them.

The school counsellor testified that the girls were concerned their friend was in trouble. She told Brennan she did not remember any conversation about drinking and drugs. "My focus was on making sure [the teen] was taken care of," she said.

About 6 that night, the counsellor phoned the teen's mother. They had a brief conversation. "I was just making sure she was aware of what was going on. I recall trying to let her know her daughter was engaging in risky behaviour around the Internet."

The teen's mother was upset, she testified. "I also told her the police were involved and would be contacting her," said the counsellor.

Final submissions to the jury are expected to begin today.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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