As of 2015, more than 5,800 sexual assaults had been reported in Quebec, and this number continues to increase. Crimes of this nature are taken very seriously by the Quebec judicial system.
Whether you are a victim or the accused, it is important to know what a lawyer’s role is in a sexual offence case and why you should have one by your side.
The lawyer’s role in the event of a sexual crime
Whether on the defence or prosecution side, a lawyer’s role is to defend the interests of one or more individuals or to prove to the courts that the accused has committed the offence for which they have been charged. To do so, he or she must be able to analyse the situation, provide legal advice and define the strategy to be applied to defend the rights of his or her clients, whether or not it involves a trial, while respecting the existing laws and the rules provided for in the lawyers’ code of ethics.
To ensure that the judicial process goes as smoothly as possible, it is important to be completely transparent with your lawyer so that he or she can prepare your case with full knowledge of the facts. He or she will be able to define the essential points of his or her plea in order to present the facts and defend you. The lawyer is also there to prepare you for your appearance so that you can verbalize the evidence and express yourself clearly before the court.
The different sexual offences under the law
Many of these acts, committed by both men and women against another person, can be considered an offence under the Criminal Code, resulting in serious consequences and significant prison sentences. Any act that can objectively be considered to be of a sexual nature is likely to constitute a crime. It is therefore important to know the true meaning of a sexual offence in the eyes of the Quebec justice system. The following are definitions from the Canadian Criminal Code.
Sexual Assault (Level 1)
Section 271 – Sexual assault that causes little or no bodily harm to the victim
Sexual Assault With a Weapon, Threat to a Third Party or Causing Bodily Harm (Level 2)
Section 272 – Sexual assault in which the perpetrator carries, uses or threatens to use a weapon or an imitation weapon; threatens to inflict injury to a person other than the victim; inflicts bodily harm (injury) to the victim; or when several persons commit a sexual assault on the same person.
Aggravated Sexual Assault (Level 3)
Article 273 – Sexual assault during which the victim was wounded, maimed, disfigured or whose life was endangered by the aggressor.
In addition, the offence of sexual assault is punishable by a maximum of 10 years’ imprisonment and, if the complainant is under 16 years of age, a minimum sentence of one year’s imprisonment applies.