A man with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) was found guilty on Friday of gross indecency with a girl who was seven years old at the time.
Devon Alanzo Stewart, 57, was remanded in custody until his sentencing hearing, which was set for Nov. 20. Justice Timothy Owen told him that a custodial sentence was inevitable.
Justice Owen, who conducted the trial without a jury at Stewart’s request, heard evidence and submissions over four days and gave his detailed decision the next day.
The offense occurred in the defendant’s car during the latter half of 2016. It came to light a few days later when the girl’s mother went to bathe her. The mothertook the child to a doctor. who confirmed the presence of an STD infection andadministered the appropriate treatment.
Justice Owen said he had reviewed the video of the girl’s interview with authorities about what had happened. The girl was reluctant to answer questions but eventually did say that someone did something they were not supposed to do. Questioned further, she said Stewart had touched her private parts.
The video was accepted as her evidence in chief and the girl appeared in court via video link; guidelines were followed for the cross-examination of children.
Justice Owen said he formed the view that the girl was intelligent and well able to tell the difference between the truth and a lie. He did not accept the suggestion that her allegation against Stewart was something she had been persuaded to invent.
He accepted defense attorney Alex Davies’s criticism that because of the leading questions that were asked, the girl’s interview was “hardly a model” for the way such interviews should be conducted.
Because of her age, the girl was not required to take an oath before giving her evidence. In such cases, the law requires corroboration, the judge explained. In this case there was “extremely strong corroboration” – Stewart himself was infected: he had tested positive six days before the incident in his car.
The medical evidence alone did not prove guilt, Justice Owen cautioned. He had heard expert evidence as to possible non-sexual methods of transmitting the disease.
The judge also heard evidence from Stewart. He said he was sure the defendant was lying about certain matters; he pointed out that those matters had not been put to the girl or her mother. But he could not assume Stewart was guilty just because he lied.
He found no credible basis for undermining the girl’s evidence and said it would be an extraordinary coincidence that the person she accused was, in fact, infected.
After the verdict, the question of identifying the defendant was discussed. Crown counsel Greg Walcolm, who had presented the case for the prosecution, said publishing the defendant’s name would not go so far as to form a link to the identification of the girl.
Justice Owen agreed and revised his reporting restrictions accordingly.
He noted that Stewart had no previous convictions and on that basis asked for a social inquiry report. The report was expected to take six to eight weeks to prepare, so sentencing was set for Nov. 20.