Jury finds Kamloops man not guilty of sexual assault
It took less than eight hours of deliberating for a B.C. Supreme Court jury to return with a not-guilty verdict following a week-long sexual assault trial at the Kamloops Law Courts.
The 11-person jury in Tristan Warren Whitford's trial — on two counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference of a person under 16 — delivered its verdict at 6:30 p.m. today (Oct. 28).
Whitford, now 25, was charged following an alleged incident in the early-morning hours of May 28, 2009.
At trial, the jury heard conflicting testimony.
Whitford was accused of having non-consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl and groping her 17-year-old sister.
He had spent the previous night drinking with the two girls at his Batchelor Heights home.
They both slept over at his house, as did their male friend.
Whitford took the stand in his own defence. In his testimony, he said the sex with the younger sister was consensual, and that he believed the girl was 16, not 15.
He denied groping her older sister.
The identities of the sisters are shielded by a court-ordered publication ban.
The six-man, five-woman jury had to not only decide whether or not Whitford raped the 15-year-old girl, but also whether he actually believed she was 16.
If they found the sex was consensual but he knew she was 15, he could have still been convicted.
Whitford was acquitted on all counts.
Defence lawyer Sheldon Tate said the Criminal Code of Canada requires a person to "take all reasonable precautions" to ascertain a prospective sexual partner's age if they might be younger than 16.