28-year-old Min Chen was found guilty of one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual interference of a 13-year-old boy by a Supreme Court jury in September 2017.
However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Murray has suspended that sentence, calling the seemingly cut-and-dry case “particularly challenging” because of issues surrounding Chen’s mental health issues and personality traits.
This is despite Chen knowing what she did was wrong as she told the boy not to tell anyone that they had had sex.
The age of consent is, of course, 16 in B.C. This was acknowledged by the Crown during the initial ruling.
“This case is not a case about sexual relations between consenting adults. It is not an ordinary case and it is not under ordinary circumstances,” Dan Blumenkrans said during the Crown’s opening statements.
“Our law says a 13-year-old boy cannot consent to sexual relations with a 28-year-old woman, any more than a 13-year-old girl can consent to have sex with a 28-year-old man.”
The incident occurred while Chen was staying with her children in a women’s supportive house in November, 2015. She claims that the 13-year-old boy, a child of her friends in the vocation house, seduced her, but this was thrown out by the jury.
According to the Vancouver Sun’s Keith Fraser, “The boy testified that Chen initiated sexual intercourse with her but that he was basically okay with it. Under the law, the boy could not legally consent to having sex as he was under the age of 16.”
Chen is a permanent resident of Canada, but is not a Canadian citizen yet. She currently faces deportation from the serious charges against her. If she serves more than 6 months for her crimes, she would be unable to appeal the deportation decision. It is unclear if this possibility was a factor for the ruling judge.
Murray has also said that she found Chen, “socially young” in addition to being “exceedingly naive,” which psychologists have attributed to sexual abuse in her childhood. This factor played a role in Murray’s ruling.
“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,” Murray said.
In particular, Murray cited “serious childhood abuse at the hands of her father in China,” including being forced to watch as he sexually assaulted Chen’s mother and then her.
“Chen was going through a stormy relationship with her husband, primarily due to her issues with managing her emotions and featuring a history of arguments and family violence with Chen being the aggressor,” reports Fraser.
The judge also said that she believes the 13-year-old boy is “more grown up and certainly more confident than Ms. Chen,” and that he may have initiated most of the contact between the two while he was staying at the transition home with his parents. The supposed confidence of the 13-year-old boy was apparently significant in Murray’s final decision.
According to Fraser, “The judge also noted that there were other factors that needed to be considered including that there were no women’s prisons on Vancouver Island if Chen was to be incarcerated, meaning she would be separated from her two children if she had to be imprisoned in a Lower Mainland jail.”
The Crown had called for a one-year jail term — enough to make a deportation appeal impossible — but Murray decided that a jail term “would not serve the public interest or the interests of Chen and imposed a suspended sentence and two years of probation,” as the judge does not believe Chen poses any risk of re-offending, reports Fraser.
With her sentence suspended and the judge believing Chen does not pose a risk of re-offending sexually, we can only hope that Chen does not encounter another “confident” preteen.