TORONTO -- A man found guilty of sexually abusing his stepdaughter decades ago has been granted a new trial after Ontario's top court found the judge improperly relied on evidence to support the complainant's testimony.

The man, who cannot be identified in order to protect the identity of his stepdaughter, was charged with sexual interference, sexual assault and sexual exploitation in connection with alleged incidents dating back to 1988.

He was acquitted on the sexual exploitation charge, which related to allegations that he forced his stepdaughter to have sex after she turned 12, because the trial judge found the complainant's evidence relating to this time period was "not sufficiently reliable."

But he was convicted on the other two charges, which stemmed from allegations of sexual touching when the complainant was as young as seven.

In a unanimous ruling released this week, the Court of Appeal for Ontario said the trial judge mistakenly relied on the fact that the complainant had spoken to her mother and sister about the allegations as a child to support her account of what happened.

In fact, the appeal court said, the complainant's prior statements could only be used to rebut accusations that she had recently fabricated the allegations.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on May 28, 2020.