N.S. Appeal Court upholds sex offence conviction against businessman

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Nova Scotia's highest court has upheld the conviction of an Ontario businessman for a sex offence involving a 15-year-old girl.

Paul Christopher Coburn was convicted in October 2019 of obtaining, or communicating for the purpose of obtaining, sexual services for consideration.

The charge relates to an encounter Coburn had with the girl in a Halifax hotel room on the evening of Feb. 21, 2017. He was in town on business and testified that he went on the website Craigslist looking for a massage because of back issues.

But in a decision released Tuesday, Chief Justice Michael Wood wrote on behalf of the three-member appeal panel: "Everything in the lead up to the events in the hotel room is suggestive of an illicit encounter and not a professional massage."

Wood said this is "borne out by the fact that sexual activity occurred within minutes" of the girl's arrival at the hotel room.

Finding of guilt 'compelling'

The girl had been driven to the hotel by another man, Leeanthon Oliver. He was was subsequently convicted of sexual interference, sexual assault and trafficking of a person under the age of 18 years. Oliver had placed the ad on Craigslist, offering the girl's services.

In his appeal, Coburn had argued that the trial judge, Elizabeth Buckle, had misinterpreted the evidence against him and drew the wrong conclusion in finding him guilty.

The Court of Appeal disagreed.

"The entirety of the circumstances lead to the conclusion that the trial judge's finding of guilt is not just reasonable but compelling," Wood wrote.

Buckle dismissed other, more serious charges against Coburn at his trial. She fined him $1000 for the single conviction.

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