In Penticton’s courthouse Thursday morning, an Okanagan Falls man who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting his underage step-daughter claimed the abuse was solely in 2015, when the girl was 15 years old. The girl testified last week that the abuse had been going on since she was just 10 years old. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

OK Falls man denies majority of sex assault on underage step-daughter

Okanagan Falls man said abuse was solely in 2015, while the victim testified it had gone from 2010 to 2016

A man who pleaded guilty to sexual assault against his underage step-daughter in Okanagan Falls has denied the vast majority of the accusations.

The man, who cannot be named due to a publication ban, was accused of several years of sexually assaulting his step-daughter, starting when the daughter was just 10 years old until she was 16. He has been in jail since 2016, after the girl’s young sister said something to her grandmother.

The man had entered a guilty plea to one count each of sexual assault and sexual interference of a minor, but a sentencing hearing turned into a mini-trial after discrepancies arose between defence and prosecutors on the duration of the abuse.

Related: Okanagan Falls victim testifies on years of sexual abuse from step-father

The man told the court the abuse solely occurred in “a short period in 2015,” when the girl was 15 years old. Asked by defence lawyer James Pennington if anything could have been occurring in 2013 or 2014, he said “Not that I can recall.”

“(The mother) was home. We did everything together. (The mother) and I did everything together; we were inseparable,” the man said.

During the early years, on when the mother was working evenings and weekends, the abuser said the victim and her sister would stay at the grandmother’s place.

“(The mother) wouldn’t be able to do anything with them at night. It was just easier if they were at grandma’s,” the man said, adding he wouldn’t be the one to pick the girls up.

When pressed by Crown lawyer Nashina Devji, the man said he never spent any time alone with the girls, despite living in the same house.

In a back-and-forth with the man, Devji posed a situation in which the mother went grocery shopping without him, but the man said the girls would go shopping with the mother, while the newborn boy — the girls’ half-brother — would stay with him.

“You were their step-dad. Why wouldn’t you just say ‘don’t worry about the girls,’” Devji asked.

“(The mother) never thought that it was right that I would stay home and watch somebody else’s kids,” the man countered.

When pressed by Devji, the man said he would sometimes spend 10 minutes alone with the girls.

“(The mother) was in a common law or marriage-like relationship with you in 2009, 2010. You guys had a child together. You have taken on the role of stepdad to (the girls). You helped (the girls) with their homework,” Devji said.

“I’m having a hard time understanding this. You were never alone with (the girls) for any period of time, even though you were their stepdad, lived in the home. And you were the spouse of their mother, the father of the biological brother.”

The man said when they arrived to a new house, in late 2013, was when he began to spend some time alone with the girls.

Much of the defence’s case rested on an exhaustive review of his work schedule, as he regularly worked away from Okanagan Falls, in places like Fort St. John or Fort Nelson, including an 80-day run in 2016.

When asked by Devji about a seven-day stretch that he wasn’t working in that 80-day run, the man said he did not come home to be with the family. He said he stayed at a work friend’s place in Grande Prairie, saying it was too expensive to travel.

He maintained that it was too expensive to travel during that break, despite Devji noting the man had come home on every other seven-day break from work.

Asked the name of his friend that he stayed with, the man struggled with a surname, suggesting a name he said he was “not positive” about.

The girl had also accused him of raping her on the May long weekend in 2016, when she was 16 years old, while they went on an ATV ride on a camping trip, which the man didn’t entirely disagree with.

“We did go for a ride, we did go to the top of the hill. I got off, went for a pee. When I got back, she was already off the four-wheeler. We looked around, she gave me a hug. Things began from there,” he said.

Following the short trial over that dispute, sentencing dispositions were to be submitted, with no decision expected by the end of the day Thursday.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

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