Former QMJHL player Noah Corson guilty of sexual assault
DRUMMONDVILLE, Que. — Former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League player Noah Corson has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a girl under the age of 16 in 2016.
In a decision dated Friday, Quebec court Judge Paul Dunnigan said that Corson did not do enough to verify the age of the victim — who was 15 years old at the time — even though, as Corson's defence argued, he "sincerely believed" she was at least 16, the legal age of consent.
The assault occurred in Drummondville, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal, and involved two other minors accused in the case. They both pleaded guilty to sexual assault in youth court in 2021.
Their identities, as well as that of the victim, are protected by publication bans.
Corson, a former player with the Drummondville Voltigeurs, and son of former Montreal Canadiens player Shayne Corson, was 18 at the time of the assault.
Dunnigan's ruling focused on Noah Corson's understanding of the victim's age, not on her claim that she did not consent to the group sex. The judge said the fact Corson did not take "all reasonable measures" to confirm her age meant there is "no need to settle other questions to arrive at the verdict."
The Criminal Code states that an individual must be at least 16 years old to consent to sex, though there is an exception for 14- and 15-year-olds when their sexual partner is less than five years older than them. However, Dunnigan cites legal precedent that states the exception does not apply to cases involving more than two participants in a sexual act.
He said Corson's belief that the victim was at least 16 would constitute a valid defence, but only if he had done everything he reasonably could have to verify her age. His failure to do that was enough to determine his guilt, the judge said.
Noah Corson's lawyer Jasmin Laperle told reporters Friday that the judge did not consider the credibility of witnesses who testified in the case. "Little attention was paid to those elements," he said.
Laperle did not immediately respond to a separate request for comment from The Canadian Press.
In remarks to reporters, prosecutor Marc-André Roy underlined what he called the victim's courage and "tremendous will to overcome significant obstacles."
"It's the end of her journey," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2024.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Corson played for the Victoriaville Tigres