A 28-year-old woman was sentenced to two years’ probation after having sex with a 13-year-old boy while staying in a transition home in Victoria.
On Sept. 25, 2017, a jury found Min Chen guilty of one count of sexual interference. The offence occurred in November 2015 but she was not sentenced until last month. There were a number of reasons for the lengthy timeline in this case including accommodating Chen’s pregnancy and birth of her second child and adjourning to resolve a constitutional challenge to the sentencing provisions.
According to the sentencing judgment, posted on Aug. 7, the stress of having these charges hanging over her head for almost four years caused extreme stress resulting in Chen threatening suicide by setting her quilt on fire.
In court, Chen testified the young boy had forced himself on her, which the jury rejected. The boy, whose name is protected by a publication ban, testified Chen had initiated sexual intercourse but “basically he was okay with it,” although he could not legally consent as he was under the age of 16.
Both Chen and the boy were staying in a transition house — Chen with her two-year-old son and the boy with his mother and siblings. Chen had become friendly with the boy’s mother and formed a relationship with the boy. Staff at the transition house noticed the relationship seemed inappropriate and at least one staff member spoke to Chen about it.
The boy asked to use Chen’s laptop and violated the rules of the house by spending time in her room to use the computer. However, Justice Murray found that Chen had not “groomed” the boy as it was clear most of their time together was because he wanted to use her laptop.
At the time of the offence, Chen’s two-year-old was asleep on another bed in the room.
Crown sought a sentence of one year in jail with one to two years of probation to follow. The defence submitted a non-custodial sentence was appropriate given Chen’s personal circumstance and the fact that although the boy could not legally consent, he was a willing participant who according to the defence was “unharmed by this incident.”
“This is a particularly challenging sentence that involves unusual facts and a constellation of unique factors,” wrote Murray. During the trial, the defence called two witnesses who were both psychologists to testify about Chen’s risk of re-offending, the childhood abuse she endured and her issues with mental health.
“According to the psychologists, this abuse, particularly at the hands of her father, has had a profound impact on her. She has trouble managing her emotions and is extremely immature. She has been unable to have healthy sexual relationships in her adult life. She has been abused by almost all of her male partners,” reads the judgment.
According to the judgment, the aggravating factors — besides having sexual intercourse with a minor — included evidence that Chen told the boy not to tell anyone what happened, the fact that Chen was friends with the boy’s mother and “breached that friendship,” along with Chen’s vulnerable position.
The defence asserted the boy was a “confident kid who presented as older than he was.”
The mitigating factors in the case included Chen’s “exceedingly naive” persona.
“Chen acts much younger than her age; she is almost childlike … She is strikingly immature. More childlike than [the boy] in fact. Despite the large gap in age, the two are not that far apart in terms of social development. Despite his young age [the boy] was in many significant ways, as odd as this sounds, more grown up and certainly more confident than Ms. Chen,” reads the judgment.
At the time of the offence, Chen’s life was in turmoil — she was unhappy, having trouble in her marriage, in transition housing and suffering from some psychiatric issues that she was unaware of. Murray stated there was little to no risk of Chen re-offending based on two psychologists’ risk assessments.
Murray recognized the timeline of events, starting in 2015 and ending in 2019, had an extreme impact on Chen, as she was humiliated and ashamed, and it is unlikely she will ever be permitted to work in health care or early childhood education which are her chosen fields.
In addition to two years probation, Chen must register as a sex offender for the next 20 years.
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