TORONTO — Canada’s Supreme Court today upheld the sexual assault conviction of a man who tricked his girlfriend into becoming pregnant by poking holes her condoms, settling a long-running case that raised questions on whether contraception deception and withholding vital information amounts to sexual assault.
Craig Jaret Hutchinson, 43, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in December 2011 for piercing his girlfriend’s condoms with a pin in 2006.
Prosecutors said Hutchinson wanted to get her pregnant because the relationship was cooling and he feared she would break up with him. The Halifax-area woman became pregnant and had an abortion, but later suffered an infection of her uterus and endured two weeks of bleeding, blood clots and severe pain, requiring treatment with antibiotics.
The case “goes to the very core of what someone consents to when they consent to have sexual relations,” Prosecutor Jim Gumpert said.
In its unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court said Hutchinson deprived the woman of her ability to consent to sex.
“The accused’s condom sabotage constituted fraud ... the result that no consent was obtained,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Thomas Cromwell wrote on behalf of the court.
“We conclude that where a complainant has chosen not to become pregnant, deceptions that deprive her of the benefit of that choice by making her pregnant, or exposing her to an increased risk of becoming pregnant by removing effective birth control, may constitute a sufficiently serious deprivation for the purposes of fraud vitiating consent,” the justices wrote.
Calls to Hutchinson’s lawyer, Luke Craggs, were not immediately returned.
In January 2013, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court rejected Hutchinson’s appeal that the sentence was harsh and excessive and that the woman voluntarily consented to have sex with him.
Hutchinson was originally found not guilty of aggravated sexual assault by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in 2009.
That decision was overturned by the province’s Appeal Court, which ordered a new trial. He was convicted in that second trial. He has been free pending appeals.
Canada’s Supreme Court has previously touched on the issue of criminalizing the withholding of vital information with regards to sexual acts. It has ruled that, in cases involving men and women who do not inform their partners they are HIV-positive, no true consent exists.
Hilla Kerner, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centers, applauded the court’s ruling today.
“Today’s court decision is very important. It reinforces a key element of fully informed consent of the participants of a sexual act. While he may have received consent to have sex, he betrayed her trust by undertaking that act with other deceitful motivations,” she said.
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