Budd guilty of sexual exploitation

A Toronto energy and environmental lawyer has been found guilty in a London, Ont., court of two charges of sexual exploitation involving two of three teen sisters.

Although Justice David Little of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found Peter Budd, 45, had been engaged in sexual activity with all three London-area sisters while they were between the ages of 14 to 18, he dismissed the third charge of sexual exploitation involving the oldest sister.

Little also aquitted Budd on three charges of sexual assault, ruling that he was "not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that all three sisters did not consent to the sexual activity with the accused. While the accused may have been the aggressor in initiating sex with at least M.D. and K.D., I am unable to conclude on that on the criminal standard of proof, they objected his overtures.

"I believe all three of the sisters consented. The accused made them individually feel important, they looked up to him, and they were each in their own mind secretly flattered by his attention. They willingly made themselves available to him."

The crux of the case, Little said, be-came the determination of whether or not Budd was in a "position of trust or authority" over the teen sisters. He found that only his relationship with the two younger sisters met this test.

The case dates back to incidents in 2000-'03, when Budd, according to Little's May 16 ruling, "swept into the lives of the D. family." The family, who lived near Budd's hobby farm, were "wowed by this charismatic, exuberant, high energy, generous, big city lawyer, his financial and career success, and his partying lifestyle."

According to the ruling, Budd, a divorced father of three sons, employed the youngest sister, A.D., at his home, cottage, and as a receptionist in his law office. She lived in his home free of rent, and he took her on a trip to England. He took the middle sister, K.D., and the oldest sister, M.D., on trips to Disneyworld and Toronto.

Things came to a head in February 2004 when Budd told the mother of the sisters that he and the oldest daughter "were falling in love or something to that effect. The accused sought Mrs. D's support. She became upset, and when the other daughters were advised of the reason for her upset, it was determined that the accused had sex with all three daughters. A family crisis ensued. The accused was confronted and admitted his actions."

Once the criminal charges were laid in 2004, Budd, who at the time was a partner at boutique energy law firm Power Budd LLP, "departed from the partnership," sparking a Pandora's box of rumours as to whether the firm would close its doors.

The firm was set to become Power LLP, with partner Rob Power and Ron Clark at the helm, but shortly thereafter Clark announced he was leaving to join Fraser Milner Casgrain in Toronto. Power is now with Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP.

The process of inquiry within the family ? which also involved friends, the London Sexual Assault Centre, and police ? that led up to the charges being laid, submitted Budd's counsel Edward Greenspan, amounted to "collusion, coaching, and tainting of evidence which renders all the complainants' evidence, and for that matter all of the Crown's

evidence, completely unreliable," according to the ruling.

Little did not agree. He acknowledged that the process of inquiry took place as defence counsel suggested but that the decision in the case must "be made on the de facto nature of the relationship that existed with each of the daughters and not be influenced by the family's subsequent interpretation of the nature of those relationships, or the family's resulting actions."

Little found that the oldest daughter's trips to Toronto "were never under the auspices or guidance of the accused. She in fact effectively babysat her sisters and the accused's sons on one of the occasions, when the accused went to a hockey game, after which a sexual encounter took place between her and the accused.

"There is no doubt that M.D. looked up to, worked for, admired, sought advice from, enjoyed, and even idolized the accused. So did her sisters," Little wrote. "But it has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that she was ever in a trust or dependency relationship with him. Her anger arose from the fact that when she found out about his activities with her sisters, she felt used.

"This anger was justified," he wrote.

However, he did find Budd was in a position of trust with the two younger sisters and that consent is "irrelevant" in determining sexual exploitation.

"In the case of both K.D. and A.D., while they may not have been seriously negatively impacted by their overall relationship with the accused, he was entrusted with their safety and protection and violated it," ruled Little.

"I find as fact that the accused occupied a position of trust for some period of time, in relation to both K.D. and A.D. There was an imbalance in the nature of the relationship between the accused and K.D. throughout, and in the early stages between the accused and A.D."

Budd was remanded out of custody until sentencing on June 19. The maximum sentence for sexual exploitation is five years.

Budd is still listed as "in private practice" on the Law Society of Upper Canada's member directory. A spokeswoman from the LSUC said investigations involving lawyers convicted of criminal charges are confidential.

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