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Trail man found not guilty in youth sex assault case

Judge says Crown did not prove allegations beyond a reasonable doubt
On March 27, William Trowell was found not guilty on all of the charges against him at the Nelson Courthouse. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

A Trail man accused of sexual assault against a minor was found not guilty by a judge on Wednesday (March 27), ending an eight-month trial.

William Trowell, 54, was originally charged with 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 were alleged to have taken place some time between 1999 and 2005 in the Prince Rupert and Castlegar areas.

A court-ordered publication ban prohibits the publication of the complainant’s name.

The trial before Judge Craig Sicotte began in Castlegar court on Aug. 15, 2023, but has bounced around regional courthouses due to court availability. The final verdict was delivered in Nelson.

Crown counsel had already stated it would not be seeking conviction on the two counts of invitation to sexual touching under 14 at the conclusion of testimony on Feb. 1. Those counts were ruled as not guilty.

In his oral verdict Wednesday, Sicotte pointed to the lack of reliable evidence for his not-guilty ruling on the two counts of sexual interference.

“The evidence of anything criminal happening in that date range is so unreliable that I acquit Mr. Trowell on those counts, as well.”

The court heard that remaining counts of sexual exploitation and sexual assault included a time period that took place after the complainant was 14 years old, which was the legal age of consent at the time – now it is 16 years old.

Sicotte returned not guilty verdicts on those accounts as well because he concluded that the Crown had not proven the essential elements of the events beyond a reasonable doubt.

“After carefully weighing all of the evidence in this case and considering the submissions of counsel, I find that I do not sufficiently believe the evidence of Mr. Trowell, his assertions of a clear memory after 20 years of what would have been insignificant events is not believable.”

He also rejected Trowell’s claim that he was never alone with the complainant at a warehouse where they were working for Trowell, nor Trowell’s claim that they were only at his Prince Rupert apartment on one occasion.

The complainant’s testimony was problematic regarding dates and their age, Sicotte said, however that they were “very clear however with respect to what happened and where the sexual grooming by Mr. Trowell began” and where sexual encounters took place.

“While I ultimately prefer the evidence of [the complainant] to that of Mr. Trowell and conclude that Mr. Trowell probably did sexually exploit 14 year old [complainant] as described, that is an insufficient conclusion on which to establish a criminal conviction.

“Our criminal law is explicitly clear that in order for there to be a criminal conviction, the standard of proof is not one probability or preference but rather proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”

READ MORE: Trail man sentenced to 6.5 years for beating death of Trail senior

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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