A 56-year-old gay Vancouver man pleaded guilty to sexual assault Oct 26 in a case where he met a 15-year-old youth through a smartphone application used by gay men to hook up for sex.
Brent Tynan was arrested in Vancouver by the Sex Crimes Unit of the North Vancouver RCMP on April 13, 2010, and was charged with sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and sexual assault. Crown and defence suggested either a suspended sentence or a conditional discharge with possible community service as punishment. Both agreed jail time would serve no purpose.
Grindr, a mobile phone application used for cruising gay men, uses global positioning to alert men to nearby cruisers.
The youth, now 17 and openly gay, signed up on Grindr but lied about his age during registration, BC Supreme Court Justice Gregory Bowden heard at the plea and sentencing submissions hearing. When asked at the North Vancouver Provincial Court preliminary inquiry in April why he said he was 17, the youth said, “It’s the lowest age you can have [on Grindr].” The youth’s name is covered by a statutory publication ban.
“The complainant was legally unable to consent,” Crown prosecutor Michael Mahoney told the court. The age of consent was raised to 16 in 2009. Xtra asked Tynan outside court what he thought about the age of consent, but his lawyer, Richard Peck, said it would not be appropriate to answer the question.
Peck told the court the youth “is a person who represented himself as being 17 years of age.” He said Grindr users are supposed to be 17 so other users know they’re meeting people at or above the age of consent. “Mr Tynan is not a pedophile,” Peck said. The situation seems to have had little ill effects on the youth, who is a star pupil and athlete, Peck told the court.
Mahoney read out the preliminary inquiry testimony in Supreme Court.
Tynan and the youth met three times between Aug 1, 2009, and April 6, 2010, according to the testimony. Mahoney said the initial contact through Grindr involved an exchange of text messages. The two eventually met in mid-August 2009 when Tynan picked up the youth from his North Shore home. They went to Tynan’s Coal Harbour condo, where they had sex, after which Tynan drove the youth to work. There was no conversation about the youth’s age, Bowden heard.
In late August, the pair again hooked up through Grindr. Tynan picked up the youth again, and they went to the condo, kissed and had anal and oral sex. It was after that that the youth said he felt guilty, the preliminary record states. “I said, ‘Brent, I’m younger than you think I am,'” the youth testified. But the youth told the preliminary inquiry he didn’t know if Tynan heard him.
The youth said he was scared, explaining, “I didn’t want to lose a friendship,” the testimony states. They met again in September and went to the place of a friend of Tynan’s where the youth brought up the age issue again. “I said, ‘I’m not 17, I’m 15,'” the youth said, according to testimony. “I told him the truth.” It was after that that the relationship ebbed, the pair not seeing each other until April.
Peck said the hiatus was in part due to Tynan’s realization that the youth was not of age. Peck said while Tynan should have ascertained the youth’s age, “there was certainly a mutuality of agreement between them.”
“[The youth] was two months shy of being able to legally consent,” Peck said. He noted that email and text messages show the youth had other contact with older men.
Tynan and the youth agreed to meet again, Mahoney said. They did so at the youth’s house at lunch hour, went into the youth’s room and had oral sex, at which point, the youth’s mother came home. “I panicked. I told Brent to go into the bathroom,” the youth testified at the inquiry. The youth dressed quickly and told his mother he was home from school because he was not feeling well.
Upstairs, the mother noticed unfamiliar clothes and found the naked Tynan, the inquiry record states. “If it wasn’t for the desperate situation, I would have laughed,” the youth testified. It was then that the youth told his mother he was gay. Mahoney said the family is now having problems dealing with the fact that the youth is openly gay.
Peck told Justice Bowden that Tynan, who has University of British Columbia degrees in law and commerce, has an exemplary record of community involvement, which includes working at UBC athletic centres; helping draft UBC’s student society constitution; working with the alumni association and his fraternity and political activity, including being president of the BC Young Liberals. Tynan, a real estate developer, was also a representative of the Vancouver Centre riding for the 1982 signing of Canada’s repatriated Constitution by Queen Elizabeth in Ottawa.
Tynan told the court he was “profoundly sorry” for his actions and begged forgiveness. “I humbly and sincerely apologize to [the youth] and his family for the pain and anguish, the family discord and the loss of face they have suffered by my actions,” he said.
Mahoney told Bowden that Tynan will suffer the stigmatization of the offence. The court also heard that Tynan had been assessed by a psychiatrist, who found him to be at the lowest possible level to reoffend. “Mr Tynan could not be classified as a predator,” Mahoney said. Tynan will return to court Nov 4 for sentencing.
At the time of Tynan’s arrest, police suggested parents should speak with their children about the dangers of predators using such technology. “Advances in technology and social networking make it easier for our children to come into contact with individuals who may try to harm them or take advantage of them,” Sergeant Jeanette Theisen said.