A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has convicted a Prince Edward Island businessman of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the Halifax area in 1991.

In an oral decision delivered Monday, Judge Patrick Murray said Stephen Nicholas Taweel, 55, of Charlottetown did not obtain the consent of the girl before they engaged in a series of sexual encounters in a home in Dartmouth, N.S.

Taweel, who pleaded not guilty prior to his trial in November, is president of Taweel Developments Inc. and Taweel Construction Ltd. He is also chairman of the Charlottetown Downtown Residents Association. 

'Mr. Taweel ... stumbled and was visibly shaken.' - Judge Patrick Murray

During his trial, he denied touching the girl in Dartmouth, testifying that they did engage in consensual sexual activity soon after they first met in P.E.I. earlier that year.

The legal age of consent in 1991 was 14, the girl's age at the time. Taweel told the court that the girl had told him she was 16 years old.

'Trapped and confused'

The sexual assault charge dealt only with the encounters in Nova Scotia. The judge said evidence of what happened in P.E.I. in 1991 was admitted to provide context and to assess credibility.

The complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, described herself in court as a naive, timid and vulnerable girl who felt "trapped and confused" by a confident and persistent older man, the judge said.

"In observing Mr. Taweel, I noticed there were times he was uncomfortable," Murray said. "As a result, he stumbled and was visibly shaken. ... Contrary to his counsel's submission, Mr. Taweel's evidence was not clear and straightforward."

By contrast, he said evidence presented by the complainant was "vivid and distinctive," as it contained detailed descriptions of places, smells, colours and patterns.

The complainant, who is now 36, told the court about nine meetings she had with Taweel, including three sexual encounters in a home in Nova Scotia.

Sentencing in May

She testified that she did not invite Taweel to touch her, but she felt "'resigned to it" because she was terrified by a threatening tone that included warnings not to tell anyone what had happened, Murray said.

"Overall, her general credibility stacked up well," he said. "I assessed the Crown's evidence on the main elements of the offence as reliable. I can attribute no motive to lie on the part of the complainant."

Murray said he believed the complainant's assertion that she did not consent to be touched in a sexual manner.

"Nothing she said brought it on and she did not ask for it," he said. "I accept the complainant's evidence that she was intimidated, that his words were menacing to her and this amounted to coercion."

Taweel's sentencing hearing has been scheduled for May 16.