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Teen testifies in St. John's courtroom in sexual assault case

A Newfoundland Supreme Court jury heard details of the sexual assault charges against 63-year-old Claude Parsons Tuesday, as the teenage complainant gave her testimony about what happened.

The girl, who was 14 at the time of the alleged assaults, testified in court via videolink from another room in the courthouse in St. John’s.

Parsons is charged with sexually assaulting her during a barbecue party in Conception Bay North in September 2015.

The girl told the court she was attending the get-together at a cabin in the woods with family and friends, and Parsons was there. Later in the evening, she was cooking hot dogs and hamburgers on the barbecue while others were either asleep or socializing around a fire nearby. She said Parsons approached her from behind, reached around and put one of his hands inside her underwear for three to five minutes.

“Did you say anything?” Crown prosecutor Paul Thistle asked the girl. 

“No,” she replied. “I was afraid he would do something bad or harm me or my family. That’s why I didn’t tell him to stop.”

The girl said she later found herself sitting next to Parsons in the backseat of a pickup, with five other people aboard. Parsons was looking for his lighter, she said, and put his hand down the back of her pants. She said he then covered the two of them up with a blanket she had brought in the truck with her and whispered in her ear.

“He put his hand down the front of my pants and told me to put my hand in his clothes, but I didn’t because I knew it was wrong,” the girl told the court.

She said that same night, at a different residence, Parsons asked her to come over to where he was sitting at the kitchen table. She said he asked her to sit on his lap, but she sat in the chair next to him instead.

“He reached over and started putting his hand down my pants again,” the teenager said, adding Parsons’ hand was inside her clothes for about three minutes.

The girl reiterated her fear when Thistle asked if she told anyone about that incident, saying, “I was afraid he’d come back and do something to me or my family.”

The girl later said she told some family members, who eventually reported the incidents to the then Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. Officials with that department called the RCMP.

By law, a person under the age of 16 cannot give sexual consent to a person more than four years older than they are. If the sexual activity includes elements such as anal sex, payment or pornography, or involves a person who is in a position of authority or trust, the age of consent is 18 years. All sexual activity without consent is unlawful.

Parsons’ trial continued for the morning, but the jury was dismissed for the afternoon while lawyers and Justice Rosalie McGrath dealt with a legal issue. Defence lawyer Rosellen Sullivan is expected to begin her cross-examination of the teenager when the trial resumes.

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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