Jury finds Yellowknife men not guilty of sexual assault


A jury has found two Yellowknife men not guilty of sexual assault after a trial in NWT Supreme Court last week.

Fraser McGurk and Jesse McNiven were charged in April 2019 with sexual assault and forcible confinement. The female complainant was 17, McGurk 18 and McNiven 19 at the time.

Court records show the Crown stayed the forcible confinement charges on June 30. Regarding the sexual assault charge, a five-day jury trial began on July 5.

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A central issue at trial was whether the 17-year-old was too impaired to provide consent. The jury required eight hours of deliberation on Saturday to find the men not guilty.

Court records show a jury trial was authorized in September 2020 but witnesses were only subpoenaed last December.

The trial was one of dozens postponed by court shutdowns due to public health orders surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Supreme Court criminal pending list as of Tuesday showed 86 jury trials in communities across the territory such as Fort Simpson, Hay River and Tuktoyaktuk. Ten of the trials date back to 2019, with one showing a file opening date of 2016.

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Sexual assault is by far the most frequent crime to be tried. The Status of Women Council of the NWT notes the territory had the highest rate of sexual assault in the country in 2019 and was second to Nunavut in 2020.