Vernon News

Teen insists sexual touching with youth worker was consensual

VERNON - The complainant in a North Okanagan sex assault case repeatedly insisted that incidents between he and his care worker were consensual and denied forcing her to do anything.

The complainant, who was 15 years old at the time of the alleged incidents and cannot be identified by court order, faced tough cross examination in Vernon Supreme Court today, March 8. He said court sexual incidents with his former care worker Tamara Marie Nicholls were consensual.

Nicholls, born in 1991, pled not guilty to charges of sexual assault, sexual interference of a person under 16 and invitation to sexual touching a person under 16. The incidents date back to May 2017.

Defence lawyer Courtenay Simmons suggested to the complainant that Nicholls did not consensually touch him and suggested she was scared.

“She never stroked your penis over the clothes?” she asked.

“Yes, she did,” he said.

“She never touched you,” she said.

“Yes, she did.”

“She froze up and couldn't move at all,” Simmons said.

“That's a lie, her hands were all over my body. She kept saying, 'this is wrong but I can't stop,'” the complainant said.

The complainant, now 17, told the court how he'd met Nicholls at a North Okanagan residential facility where he was living. Crown prosecutor Juan O'Quinn asked the complainant what Nicholls' role was at the care home.

“Like a parent role model... help you get your life together,” he said.

O'Quinn earlier told the court there had been four instances of sexual intimacy between Nicholls and the complainant in May 2017; three at the home, including one where they “made out” in Nicholls staff bedroom. Another incident took place in Nicholls car, he said. The instances of sexual touching were 'over the clothes' the complainant told the court.

O'Quinn asked the complainant to describe the relationship.

“I was in love,” he said.

The Crown lawyer asked the complainant to read Facebook messages sent between him and Nicholls. In several messages from Nicholls, she says if she becomes pregnant with her husband she'll still be around for a year.

“I'll do my best to keep seeing you,” one message reads.

The court heard that Nicholls had told the complainant not to tell anyone as it would get her in trouble. He said he deleted many of the messages at her insistence. 

The complainant admitted to being the instigator of the incidents and that he may have said sexually inappropriate things to Nicholls.

“Again, you were trying to touch her,” Simmons said.

“I wasn't trying, I did,” he said.

Simmons said Nicholls had asked the complainant to stop touching her.

“Wrong,” he said.

The defence lawyer moved on to another situation when Nicholls and the complainant were in Nicholls car.

You tried to kiss her but she did not kiss you back, the lawyer told the complainant.

“That's a lie,” the complainant said.

“You tried to kiss her,” said Simmons.

“I didn't try, I did, and I ended up kissing all over her breasts and stomach,” said the complainant.

“She did not touch your penis,” said the lawyer. “Yes, she did,” the complainant replied.

“She did not touch you at all,” said the lawyer. “Yes, she did,” the complainant replied.

"It lasted for a couple of seconds," said Simmons. The complainant replied it had lasted for 20 or 30 minutes.

Under cross-examination by the defence the complainant talked at length about his long history of drug use. The complainant told the court he started using cannabis at age 12 and alcohol at 13, as well as abusing his medication. The complainant says he moved on to using harder drugs, which he would regularly mix. He started using ketamine daily.

The court heard how after one night of heavy drug use he didn’t go to work for three days and stayed in bed crying.

“You testified you think your drug use has affected your memory,” asked the defence.

“Yes,” replied the complainant. “I see stuff sometimes, I hear stuff sometimes.”

Over the three-day trial, the court heard about the complainant's unstable home life, and how he had suffered physical abuse by his mother's former partners. The complainant suffered from a long list of mental health issues and had self-harmed and been suicidal.

“He doesn't always know what is acceptable behaviour and what is not acceptable,” the complainant's mother had told the court. Describing his mental age when he was 15 years old as between 10 and 13 years old.

Over the course of the trial, the complainant's ex-girlfriend had testified that she found Facebook messages from the complainant to Nicholls on her phone. She took screenshots of the messages and send them to the complainant's mother, who forwarded them to the RCMP.

But Justice Groves ruled the messages were inadmissible and couldn't be used as evidence, citing the screenshots were only partial conversations, among other reasons.

The trial was adjourned to the end of the month.

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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