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The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal has denied the appeal of a convicted child sex offender, saying his trial judge made no mistake in interpreting the child’s testimony.
Bradley Joseph Sullivan had asked the court to quash his four convictions – two for sexual assault and two for invitation to sexual touching involving a person under 16 years of age — and order him a new trial.
However, in a decision released last week, a panel of three appeal judges dismissed the case, saying there was no basis to overturn the convictions.
Sullivan was 22 when he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl just over four years ago. The girl testified Sullivan had added her on Facebook and the two began exchanging messages, agreeing to meet about two months later.
The girl said on the first meeting, she went with Sullivan in his car to a parking lot where they engaged in oral sex. The second time they met was after Sullivan invited her to his apartment to have intercourse, which they did.
The child and her mother went to the police the next day.
A person under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to sexual activity with a person more than four years older than they are, and in cases that involve pornography or other certain elements, the age of consent rises to 18 years. All sexual activity without consent is illegal.
Sullivan, who did not testify at his trial, appealed his convictions on the grounds that the trial judge had not properly considered nor addressed inconsistencies in the girl’s testimony.
Those inconsistencies included the fact the girl had not mentioned the first incident to police when she gave her initial statement, something she explained at trial by saying she figured the second incident was more important; the fact she had not told police specifically about oral sex when she did disclose the first assault; and variations of her recollection of the crimes between her testimony and her responses on cross-examination. The girl had been inconsistent when telling the court the date she and Sullivan had discussed her age, eventually saying she couldn’t remember when the discussion had happened, but that it was before they had met in person.
There had been a significant delay between the girl’s testimony and her cross-examination due to a number of issues, and the passage of time had impaired the girl’s memory: while she was clear that she had been sexually assaulted, she was unable to recall certain specific details.
In a written decision concurred by two other judges, Justice William Goodridge said he found no reason to intervene when it came to Sullivan’s convictions.
The trial judge did not fail to consider the complainant’s inconsistencies and memory lapses, Goodridge wrote, pointing to specific pages in the trial decision. Despite the inconsistencies and omissions, there was enough corroborating evidence presented at trial – including a copy of a specific social media message exchange — to find Sullivan guilty, Goodridge wrote.
Inconsistencies regarding the second sexual assault had been related to peripheral details only, the appeal judges agreed.
“The trial judge noted in his reasons that, on cross-examination, almost one year following examination-in-chief, the complainant could no longer recall all details, such as the duration of the sexual intercourse or what she and Mr. Sullivan were wearing,” Goodridge wrote. “However, the complainant remained consistent on examination-in-chief and cross-examination that the sexual intercourse had occurred, saying, ‘It definitely happened.’ The trial judge considered the complainant’s inability to recall all details during cross-examination and was satisfied that this inability did not adversely affect her credibility on the core allegation of sexual intercourse.”
Sullivan had not demonstrated any miscarriage of justice, the appeal judges ruled, dismissing the appeal.