Sexual assault provisions in the Criminal Code have often been considered convoluted and, at times, difficult to comprehend. Bill C-51, introduced in June 2017, aims to make the law more relevant to our modern society. In practice, several provisions contained in Bill C-51 will provide extended protection for sexual assault complainants.

Bill C-51 will expand the “rape shield” law, whereby “sexting” (texts, emails, photos, or videos of  a sexual nature or for a sexual purposes) cannot be used against the complainant at trial. Under the current law, a complainant’s private medical records are not admissible in trial unless the accused can prove that these records are vital to disproving the allegations. The Bill will expand the list of inadmissible records to include personal emails or communications and other personal records such as diaries or counselling advice.

Bill C-51 will also codify existing restrictions regarding when a defendant may use the defence of honest, but mistaken belief in consent. For example, it is not legally possible to claim that a third party offered consent on another’s behalf or to assert that a failure to resist equates to consent. Bill C-51 is still at the Committee stage and if approved, would likely not come into effect until 2018.

If you have been accused of sexual assault or have questions regarding sexual assault law, please contact Cassandra or Kristen at DeMelo Law.