The charge of sexual assault has the element of an assault as its basis. It is the intentional and non-consensual application of force by one person on another. This becomes a sexual assault where the application of force is in relation to a part of the body or where the nature or intent of the touching is for a sexual purpose.
While most people relate a sexual offence to an act of intercourse or some other explicit act, sexual assault is defined by the intent of the action - for a sexual purpose - and not the apparent severity or amount of force applied. In other words, mere touching, pinching, rubbing or even hugging can amount to a sexual assault, depending on the intended purpose.
The penalties for sexual assault are dependent on a number of factors. If the Crown is proceeding by indictment, the maximum penalty is 10 years in custody. If the Crown is proceeding by summary conviction, the maximum penalty is 18 months in custody. These maximums increase where there is a weapon used or where there is either bodily harm or an aggravated assault as part of the sexual assault.
Further, where the alleged victim is under the age of 16 years, the maximum penalties increase to 14 years and 2 years less one day in custody. There are also mandatory minimum jail sentences of 1 year or 6 months, depending on the Crown election.