*Warning: this story contains elements that some may find triggering.
*Editor's note: A publication ban covers any information that might identify the victims in this case, including many details of the incidents themselves.
A Palmerston man on trial for sexual assault said his accusers flirted with him and therefore consented to his actions – from touching to oral sex and intercourse.
Testifying in his own defence on Wednesday, Michael Hurst told a Guelph court one of the women repeatedly brushed against him and smiled, while another wore a tight shirt and talked with him in a friendly fashion.
Both women testified earlier in the week, telling the court Hurst’s actions were unwanted. One said she felt pressured into performing oral sex and having intercourse with Hurst, saying she complied only after saying no.
Hurst faces five charges of sexual assault, alleged to have independently involved two women he had regular contact with. The incidents are said to have happened between 2017 and 2020, mostly in Wellington North.
He pleaded not guilty on Monday.
Much of the evidence presented to the court is covered by a publication ban aimed at protecting the identities of the complainants.
One of the women told the court earlier in the week that Hurst grabbed her buttocks and both breasts during separate incidents.
Hurst denied grabbing her buttocks – suggesting in court he used his hand to “cup” her leg below her buttocks in response to his perception she’d been flirting with him – though he admitted to coming up behind her and cupping one of her breasts on a separate occasion.
He believed the woman had also been flirting with him that day.
Pressed by assistant Crown attorney Peter Keen to explain what led him to believe she wanted her breast grabbed, Hurst said the woman brushed up against him several times that day – each time followed by a smile.
Asked by Keen whether he would have done those things if he and the woman hadn’t been alone, Hurst admitted he would not, “because it wouldn’t be acceptable.”
As a result of those encounters, the woman filed a non-police complaint against Hurst. He was warned about his behaviour, his contact with the woman was limited and he was ordered to take sexual harassment training.
A criminal complaint followed in 2021.
In the wake of that complaint, Hurst testified he approached the other woman he’d had sexual encounters with to confirm she had consented, telling the court the woman’s response was ‘we’re good.’
“You wouldn’t need to do that if everything was crystal clear to you, would you?” asked Keen.
“It was crystal clear to me, but I wanted to make sure we were on the same page,” Hurst responded. “I wanted to confirm.”
That woman testified she felt pressured into performing oral sex on Hurst and having intercourse with him.
Even before his attempt to confirm her consent, Hurst insists he knew she was a willing participant.
Hurst testified there was mutual sexual touching, flirty conversations and agreed upon sexual acts. He admitted to putting his hand down her shirt and touching one of her breasts as well.
“When I said ‘no,’ he didn’t really listen,” the woman told the court on Tuesday, referring to an incident she claimed involved oral sex. Hurst told the court they had intercourse immediately prior to the oral sex.
Closing arguments in the case are expected Friday, with the matter being handed to the jury of eight men and four women on Monday for deliberation.