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Trial of Trail man accused of child sex assault concludes

A verdict is expected in March
A verdict in the William Trowell trial is expected at the Castlegar Courthouse in March. File photo

The trial of a West Kootenay businessman on charges of sexual assault of a minor resumed this week.

William Trowell, 54, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual interference of a person under 14 years old, two counts of invitation to sexual touching under 14, sexual exploitation and sexual assault, which all allegedly took place some time between 1999 and 2003 in the Prince Rupert and Castlegar areas.

Trowell is the owner of Selkirk Security Systems. He has also been a member of the City of Trail’s Community Safety Task Force and a Prince Rupert Search and Rescue chief.

The trial was moved to the Nelson Courthouse for Jan. 29 due to the unavailability of court time at the Castlegar Courthouse. This marks the third time the trial has been moved to another city for a day or more. On Jan. 30, the trial continued at the Rossland Courthouse.

RELATED: Accused takes the stand in Castlegar child sex assault trial

The trial originally began in August and has seen a number of gaps between court dates.

The time it has taken for the trial to conclude since Trowell was first charged in early June 2022 is the source of a defence application for a stay of proceedings under Section 11B of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that states a person has the right to be tried within a reasonable time. For provincial court trials such as this one, the Supreme Court has determined this to be 18 months from the time a person is charged.

The Trowell case is now at almost 20 months.

Court time on Nov. 29 was mainly taken up with arguments related to the application. When taken by strict calendar days, the trial is past 18 months. But there are a number of things that can result in specific periods of time being excluded from the 18-month countdown including delays caused solely by the defence and unforeseeable or unavoidable circumstances.

Crown council argued that there have been a number of such periods since Trowell was charged, while the defence argued the opposite.

Judge Craig Sicotte will rule on the application at a later date. If he grants the stay, that means the trial would likely end without a verdict.

This was the second application for a stay of proceedings the defence has asked for during the trial. In August, the court heard arguments that the loss of police files had hindered Trowell’s ability to defend himself according to Section 7 of the charter.

At the time, Sicotte ruled that while a charter breach had occurred, there was no evidence of actual material prejudice of defence, but rather a “theoretical probability of some prejudice, which is not sufficient to warrant a stay of proceedings.”

Jan. 30 was taken up with defence and Crown summaries of the case.

Crown lawyer Morne Coetzee began his summary by dropping two of the charges against Trowell.

Coetzee said the Crown would not be seeking conviction on the two counts of invitation to sexual touching under 14.

However, he said the remaining counts “had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt and conviction should follow.”

In previous testimony, the complainant recounted working with Trowell in a warehouse, assisting him with tasks related to his job as a snack food distributor. The complainant alleged the warehouse was the location for the first encounters of a sexual nature between the two.

“This work relationship provided the accused with an opportunity to engage in sexual activities with the complainant and this formed the genesis of the grooming behaviour and sexual activity that lasted the next six years,” said Coetzee.

Coetzee said that the work relationship and both party’s roles in a local search and rescue group placed Trowell in a position of trust over the complainant.

Coetzee then highlighted the main components of the Crown’s case including: the victim’s testimony of the alleged offences and their details; testimony from the complainant’s father that the child’s behaviour changed after meeting Trowell; continued contact between the two after the complainant’s family moved to Castlegar including through social media and phone calls that resulted in a $1,500 bill for Trowell; Trowell moving to Castlegar a few months after the complainant; the father making a request to Trowell to back away from the child, but Trowell continuing to remain in contact and a continued relationship between the two throughout the complainant’s teen years.

Both sides attempted to convince the court that testimony given by the opposing witnesses was unreliable.

The defence pointed to unclear or conflicting timelines provided by the complainant and the complainant’s father.

Coetzee argued those inconsistencies were simply due to the passage of 20 years and the fact that the complainant was a child at the time of the alleged offences.

Coetzee cited a previous court ruling, “When testifying about events that transpired when they were a child, especially matters such as time and location and precise details, the evidence must be assessed differently; taking into account their age, maturity and the passage of time. You must keep in mind that children may not perceive and recall events the same as an adult.”

The Crown pointed to the behaviour of the accused while on the stand.

Coetzee said some of Trowell’s answers were “unrealistically rigid and precise,” and that at times he failed to answer questions until asked multiple times and that he refused to admit the complainant worked for him, instead saying he helped him with work.

Throughout the trial, Trowell denied having any sexual relationship with the complainant, but acknowledged having a friendship.

His defence claimed that the accusations were brought forward as an act of vengeance due to an adversarial relationship between Trowell and the complainant’s former wife.

Trowell testified that he had received a voicemail where she threatened to “ruin his life.” That voicemail was not produced or entered into evidence.

During testimony, the complainant stated that it was through discussions with his wife that he came to realize that he should report his relationship with Trowell to the police.

The other defence Trowell’s lawyers offered was that the complainant’s testimony that sexual encounters he had with Trowell after the age of 14 were consensual. At the time of the alleged incidents, the legal age of consent was 14 years old.

Defence lawyer Troy Anderson said that the complainant’s own testimony therefore was a “complete defence to many of the charges.”

“If you believe the evidence of the accused … or if you are unable to decide whom to believe, you must acquit,” concluded Anderson.

Betsy Kline

About the Author: Betsy Kline

After spending several years as a freelance writer for the Castlegar News, Betsy joined the editorial staff as a reporter in March of 2015. In 2020, she moved into the editor's position.
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