A new trial has been ordered for a 45-year-old Prince George, B.C., man convicted of sexually interfering with a person under 16 years of age.
In a unanimous ruling, a three-member panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal says Paul Veeken’s 2015 conviction should be set aside because the trial judge failed to properly instruct the jury.
Veeken was sentenced to two years in jail and a year probation for sexually touching a pre-teen girl, although the defence argued the girl had been coached by her parents to say the touching was sexual in nature when it was just innocent tickling.
The Court of Appeal justices found a statement made in court by the girl’s mother could have had the effect of tainting the minds of jury.
“The prejudice to Mr. Veeken arising from what R.’s mother said is obvious,” the written court decision reads.
At the 2015 trial, the Crown asked B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elliot Myers to address the mother’s evidence in his charge to the jury, but the high court says the judge simply told jurors to ignore the mother’s statements and didn’t explain why.
The Court of Appeal ruling posted online on Friday notes Veeken raises several grounds for appeal, but the judge’s failure to address the statements of the mother are enough to force a new trial.
“The jury should have been instructed that what R.’s mother said she was told (about Veeken) was hearsay and was not proof of the truth of what she had been told,” says Justice David Frankel.
“More importantly, the jury should have been specifically instructed that it must not rely on that evidence to conclude Mr. Veeken was a person of bad character who was, therefore, more likely to have committed the offence against R.”
A date for a new trial has not yet been set.
The Canadian Press