© Canadian Press photo
Stephen Nicholas Taweel, a prominent businessman from Prince Edward Island looks at his smart phone as he waits for his sentencing at Supreme Court in Halifax on Thursday, August 14, 2014. Taweel was convicted earlier this year of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl.
HALIFAX — A prominent P.E.I. businessman has been sentenced to two years and four months in prison for incidents of sexual assault dating back more than 20 years.
Fifty-five-year-old Stephen Nicholas Taweel was found guilty earlier this year of failing to obtain the consent of a 14-year-old girl before a series of sexual encounters that took place in the Halifax area in 1991.
Justice Patrick Murray of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court says the sentence will send a strong message of deterrence.
The Crown recommended a sentence of three to four years in prison, while the defence argued he should be granted a conditional sentence.
Murray says the seriousness of the offence warrants a federal prison term.
Taweel is the president of Taweel Developments and Taweel Construction, and is also chairman of the Charlottetown Downtown Residents Association.
During his trial, Taweel denied touching the girl at a home in Dartmouth, N.S., testifying that they did engage in consensual sexual activity soon after they first met in P.E.I. earlier that year.
The legal age of consent at the time was 14, though Taweel said in court the girl had told him she was 16 years old.
The complainant, now in her 30s and whose identity is protected by a publication ban, described herself in court as a naive, timid and vulnerable girl who felt “trapped and confused” by a confident and persistent older man, Judge Patrick Murray said in his decision on Feb. 24.
She testified that she did not invite Taweel to touch her, but she felt “resigned to it” because she was terrified by a threatening tone that included warnings not to tell anyone what had happened, Murray said.