Salmon Arm optician convicted of decades old sexual assault gets re-trial | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Salmon Arm optician convicted of decades old sexual assault gets re-trial

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October 30, 2019 - 10:40 AM

A former Salmon Arm optician convicted two years ago for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in the mid-eighties has been granted a new trial.

Kenneth Pilkington, now in his mid-70s, avoided jail when he was convicted in 2017 and was sentenced to 24 months of probation and ordered to register as a sex offender for 20 years.

However, on Oct. 21, three B.C. Court of Appeal judges granted Pilkington a new trial, saying the original judge made errors during the trial.

Justices John Hunter, Bruce Butler and Mary Saunders said in the decision that Justice Joel Groves failed in assessing the credibility of statements made to the court by Pilkington and relied on information not presented in evidence.

The circumstances outlined in the case date back to 1986, when the complainant, whose name is covered under a publication ban, was 14 years old and Pilkington was 42 years old.

During the original trial, the complainant testified Pilkington sexually assaulted him at his Salmon Arm optician's office when he was 14 years old. Pilkington had invited him into the back of the store and then groped and touched him sexually from behind, before giving him money, the complainant said. The sexual assaults happened on numerous occasions over an 18 month period, he said.

Pilkington denied the assault, saying instead he and the complainant engaged in consensual sexual activity and he believed the complainant to be 17 years old at the time. At the time of the offence, the age of consent was 14 years old.

Pilkington testified he first met the complainant when he picked him up hitchhiking outside of town while he was on his way to feed a friend's horses. Pilkington had on several occasions driven the same route and given the complainant a ride. Their sexual encounters took place before and after these journeys.

Justice Groves had said this was "not particularly believable" and questioned why a "busy professional" would be doing this, and that the friend, who has since died, would have got an another "agricultural person" to feed his horses.

According to the appeal court decision, the judge placed too much prominence on the rationale of Pilkington driving this route to feed the horses and used this rationale in assessing the credibility of the accused.

"There was simply no basis in the evidence... that an owner of horses would not have a friend feed them in his absence," reads the decision.

The Appeal Court concluded the judge's reasons for disbelieving Pilkington were not supported by evidence and based on speculation and overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial.

Pilkington had requested an acquittal instead of a new trial, due to his age. However, in the Appeal Court decision, the judge states "there is... a body of evidence that would support conviction" and ordered a new trial at the discretion of Crown counsel.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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