New Westminster Law Courts building

Langley man guilty of sex with underage girl

Change in law results in conviction

A 30-year-old Langley man has been convicted of having sex with an underage girl a few days after Canada’s age of consent was raised.

Michael David Ryder was found guilty Thursday by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in New Westminster.

At the same time, Justice Elizabeth A. Arnold-Bailey acquitted Ryder of a charge of sexual assault on the same 15-year-old, after ruling the alleged victim’s memory was too impaired by drug use to meet the Canadian Criminal Code requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ryder was arrested and charged after the May 6, 2008 incident in an Aldergrove residence not far from the local Community Policing Office (CPO).

A passer by spotted the 15-year-old sitting huddled on a curb around 11 a.m. on a cold and windy morning and took her to the Aldergrove CPO.

During Ryder’s trial in November, the girl, who cannot by law be identified in press reports, testified that she had just spent six days in detox for using ecstasy, crystal meth, crack cocaine and powdered cocaine in May of 2008.

She’d been speaking with Ryder over the internet.

The day after she got out of detox, they met in person.

They drove around, smoked some marijuana and picked up some crack cocaine before going back to Ryder’s home where they used the crack and some crystal meth.

Then, she said, Ryder forced her to have sex with him against her will.

But the teen was so high on dugs she was hallucinating, the judge noted.

At Ryder’s place she admitted she saw a “face that looked like a devil on the wall and spiders coming out of the wall” the judge said.

There was no obvious physical evidence of forcible sex, either.

Because of that, the judge ruled the girl’s claim of sexual assault could not be proven and acquitted Ryder.

The victims “extreme intoxication at the material time … seriously undermined the reliability of her account,” Justice Arnold-Bailey said.

But the judge believed the teenager when she said that Ryder knew she was underage because she told him she was 15 on a previous occasion.

Canadian law requires that an adult “must take all reasonable steps” to make sure their sexual partner is of legal age, especially when, as in the case of the 15-year-old, she obviously looks like a young person, the judge noted.

That, combined with DNA evidence that established sexual contact had occurred, was enough to convict, the judge said.

Ryder and the girl actually had sex once before when she was 14, but that broke no law because at the time, the age of sexual consent in Canada was 14 years.

The federal Conservative government raised the age to 16 on May 1, 2008, a few days before the second sexual encounter between Ryder and the girl took place.

Ryder may not have known the law had been changed, the judge noted, but ignorance of the law is never a defence.

Ryder will be sentenced on Feb. 11.