Thank you for the opportunity to present to the committee, Mr. Chairman, data relevant to your consideration of Bill C-22. You have the presentation information with you.
We will present to you police-reported information on children and youths as victims of sexual offences as these offences are currently defined in the Criminal Code, and data on the processing by the courts of sexual offence cases.
Statistics Canada collects national data on the overall number of incidents of sexual offences in Canada that have been reported to police. Information on the characteristics of sexual offences reported to police—the age of the victim, the age of the accused, and the relationship of the victim to the accused—was available from a subset of 122 police services in 2005. While these subsets provide useful information on children and youths as victims of sexual offences, we must keep in mind that they are not nationally representative. Data limitations are noted on the various slide input notes.
First, let me begin by telling you what we know about the sexual activity of youth according to Statistics Canada's National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, as of 2000-01, in which we asked youths if they had ever had consensual sex. We found that 5% of 12- and 13-years-olds, 13% of 14- and 15-year-olds, and 41% of 16- and 17-year-olds reported having had sexual intercourse. Among the sexually active 14- and 15-year-olds, 37% reported first having had sexual intercourse when they were 10 to 13 years old, and 36% when they were 14, with the remaining 27% at 15 years of age.
Before turning to what we know about sexual offences in Canada, it's important to recognize that given the secrecy that often surrounds sexual offences, they are the least likely offences to come to the attention of the police. According to the 2004 general social survey on victimization that covered the population 15 and over, only 8% of sexual offences are brought to the attention of the police. We suspect that reporting rates may even be lower for those younger than 15. At the end of the presentation, you'll find a supplementary slide on reasons for not reporting.
Turning to the second slide in the presentation, in 2005 there were about 26,000 sexual offences known to police. Among these, about 23,000 were sexual assaults, and just under 3,000 were other sexual offences, which included sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual exploitation, incest, anal intercourse, and bestiality. While we're unable to disaggregate the individual offences that make up the other sexual offences in our police-reported data, we do know from our court data that about three-quarters of cases of these other offences are sexual interference incidents.
Data from a subset of police services indicate that sexual offences are crimes largely committed against young women under the age of 18. Overall, in six in ten incidents of sexual violence, the victim is less than 18 years of age. As the slide clearly indicates, young women between the ages of 13 and 15 are the most vulnerable to being the victim of a sexual offence.
Concerning the age of the accused, for sexual assault and other sexual offences in which the victim is under 18, the accused is 21 years of age or older in about two-thirds of the incidents, and therefore outside the proposed age of exclusion. Young males aged 13 to 17 are at the highest risk of sexually offending. You'll also find a supplementary slide on age of accused at the end of the presentation.
While we cannot predict the direct impact of Bill C-22 on the number and type of sexual offences reported to police, we are able to look at incidents of sexual assault in which the victim is 14 and 15. There were 788 such incidents in which an accused was identified, as reported by a subset of 122 police services in 2005. We found that in six in ten of these incidents, the accused was 21 years of age or older; in about one-quarter of the incidents, the accused was 16 to 20 years old.
Our subset of police reported data allows us to look at the relationship of the victim to the accused when an accused can be identified. The majority of sexual offences against children and youth are committed by someone known to them, more often by friends and acquaintances, about 50% of the time. Just over one-third are committed by family and just over 10% by strangers. We know that when kids are younger they are more likely to be sexually victimized by a family member. As they get older and more socially interactive, they are most likely to be sexually victimized by a friend or an acquaintance.
Turning to slide 4, we can turn our attention to trends, and we're able to look at 16 years of nationally representative data on other sexual offences. We see that there's been an overall decline of about one-quarter in the rate of these offences between 1990 and 2005. Despite this overall decline, however, in three of the four most recent years there have been slight increases. This overall decline is similar to trends in violent crime rates, where we've seen declines throughout the 1990s, followed by relative stability since 1999. You willl also find, in supplementary slides, information on trends in sexual assaults.
We can offer some insights into the offence of luring that the proposed bill touches on. These data are also from the subset of 122 police services in 2005, and although not nationally representative, they do provide a general sense of trends for these offences. Between 2003 and 2005 there were 116 reported incidents, of which 44 were reported in 2005.
We can also speak to the processing of sexual offence cases. There are three things that can happen to an incident when it's reported to the police: it can be cleared by charge, cleared otherwise, or remain unsolved. In 2005, next to robbery, the charge rate for “other” sexual offences was the lowest among violent offences, at 37%. What's noteworthy is the 44% decrease in charge rates for other sexual offences between 1990 and 2005. This is significantly larger than the 22% drop in charge rates for sexual assaults and the 4% drop in charge rates for violent crimes overall.
Remembering that only about 8% of sexual assaults are reported to police, and, as I've indicated, that other sexual offences are among the offences least likely to be cleared by charge, once cases do get to court, with the exception of homicide and attempted murder, sexual offences are the least likely to result in a conviction, compared to other violent offences. Overall, 49% of violent offences are convicted. This compares to just 39% of sexual assaults and 37% of other sexual offences.
Although conviction rates for sexual offences are low, once convicted they are dealt with harshly. Rates of incarceration are higher for these offences than they are for overall violent offences. For example, overall, the rate of incarceration for convicted cases of violent crimes is 35%. In the case of each sexual assault and “other” sexual offences the rate is 45%. It is higher for homicide, attempted murder, and robbery.
We also know from our court data that someone convicted of a sexual assault or an “other” sexual offence is more likely to get a longer prison sentence than cases of physical assault, including major assault; and “other” sexual offences, such as sexual interference, invitation to touching, and sexual exploitation, get longer prison sentences, on average, than cases of sexual assault. In 2003-04, on average, a person convicted of an “other” sexual offence and who was sentenced to prison had a sentence length of 529 days. This was up 117 days since 1994-95. This compares to an average prison sentence length of 212 days for violent crimes overall, and of 466 days in the case of sexual assault. Only homicides, attempted homicides, and robbery have longer average terms of imprisonment.
All sexual offences, be it either “other” sexual offences or sexual assault, are treated more harshly when the victim is 11 years and under than when the victim is 12 to 17 years old. For example, 47% of “other” sexual offence cases, where the victim was 11 or under, received a term of imprisonment. This was true for 39% of other sexual offences involving a victim of 12 to 17 years of age. Whether the accused is a family or non-family member also has an impact on whether the accused will receive a sentence of imprisonment. Upwards of 50% of cases where the accused is a family member get a term of imprisonment, compared to about 40% of cases where the accused is non-family.
In summary, Mr. Chairman, the data have shown that sexual offences are the least likely offence to be reported to the police. Young women aged 13 to 15 are the most vulnerable to sexual offences.
Roughly two-thirds of the accused are over the age of 21, where the victim was under the age of 18, and yet young males are at the highest risk of sexually offending.
Fewer incidents of sexual offences are being cleared by charge, and sexual offences have one of the lowest rates of conviction. However, when there are convictions, sexual offences are dealt with harshly by the courts, particularly when the victim is young and the accused is a family member.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You'll find a series of supplementary points at the end of the presentation.