A Prince George man was found not guilty Thursday of sexually assaulting his granddaughter after the judge found inconsistencies in the girl's testimony were enough to raise reasonable doubt that he committed the acts.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon said that the incidents the granddaughter alleged probably did occur.
"But I also find that I am left with a small but reasonable doubt," Fenlon said.
As a rule of thumb, a judge or jury must be 90 per cent sure the offence was committed before issuing a guilty verdict in a criminal case.
A court-ordered publication ban protects the man's and girl's identities.
The girl had alleged the acts occurred on a near daily basis between March 2006 and June 2010, when she was between the ages of nine and 13. She was 15 years old when the trial was held. In considering the evidence, Fenlon said she took the girl's age into account and did not impose the same exacting standards applied to an adult's testimony, particularly around specific details about when and where the incidents allegedly occurred.
But Fenlon also noted the girl was an older child when she gave statements to police at age 13 and still older when the trial was held and found inconsistencies in the statements and the testimony the girl gave at trial that went beyond peripheral details.
"There is a difference between saying that it probably happened more than 20 times a year and also saying probably three times a day, every day," Fenlon said. "Similarly, there is a very real difference between saying on the day of the police interview at the age of 13 that she had been assaulted the last time the night before, the very night before the interview, and then saying within minutes that the last time was five weeks ago and then again five days ago."
Fenlon said she found the way the man gave his statement to police was at times "jarringly at odds with a manner that one would expect, that is, shock and alarm at the allegations being made against him."
She noted the grandfather described the girl to police as a "little tease" and admitted the way she danced and moved around aroused him but also said he did not attack her because he knew better than that.
Asked if the girl was making up her story, Fenlon said the man answered somewhat equivocally that he did not know and claimed to have six girlfriends and therefore did not need the attention of the kind the girl alleged.
Fenlon said the man's suggestion the girl was using him as a guinea pig made no sense and found his evidence not credible.
But she also said the onus remained upon the Crown to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt and while the girl's story had the "ring of truth," the inconsistencies in her testimony and statements were enough to cause reasonable doubt.