Police interview transcripts reveal some officers are unclear about even the most basic issues. Did you indicate your willingness? Determining the threshold between very drunk and incapacitated is not an exact science. Further complicating matters is the fact that a severely intoxicated complainant may not remember significant portions of the incident. Biases that cast blame on victims who voluntarily consume drugs or alcohol also result in these sexual assault cases dropping out of the system.
Of the few that do make it to court, convictions are not the norm. In February, a Newfoundland jury found a police officer not guilty of sexual assaulting a woman whom he drove home from the bar district while on duty. The Crown argued that Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove, who is married, took advantage of the intoxicated woman. Then, earlier this month, a Nova Scotia judge acquitted a Halifax taxi driver of raping a female fare who was found unconscious in the back of his cab, partially naked, having urinated on herself.
The woman, whose blood alcohol level was found to be three times the legal limit, had hailed the cab just 11 minutes earlier. In a recent high-profile Toronto trial, an Ontario court justice handed down a rare guilty verdict in an incapacity case, but only after police unearthed a mountain of outside corroborating evidence.
The night before, she had been out with friends at a bar, drinking vodka in a reserved bottle-service booth. The then year-old remembers leaving to use the washroom. The next thing she can recall is a man she had never seen before, hovering over her. They were in the hotel room. Moazzam Tariq was charged, days later, with sexual assault. He told investigators what happened was consensual. Videos collected from two night clubs — one of which K. The footage reveals K.
Tariq just 15 minutes before they walked — her staggering and him propping her up — out of the bar to the nearby Thompson Hotel. In the elevator up to Mr. Tariq appears to be sober and even singing to himself.
The video was a crucial piece of evidence for the Crown, as it provided black-and-white proof of the state K. The videos that made K. In the absence of this kind of concrete evidence, many sexual assault cases collapse. Detective Anthony Williams, who investigated K. Tariq even if they did not obtain the elevator footage, based on the credibility of K. The reasons vary, they say. Sometimes police want to spare the victim from a gruelling trial process.
Additionally, the unique stigma that comes with a sexual assault charge — which can stay with an accused even if a judge finds them innocent — can deter investigators from making an arrest in borderline cases. An officer may believe a complainant, but if the evidence is such that, even in a best-case scenario, the odds of a conviction are slim, police may make a decision not to invest too much time in the investigation.
This is particularly an issue for detectives who have been around a long time and have seen how rare it is for a judge to reach a guilty finding over incapacity, said another Crown. Benedet said anything less than near unconsciousness makes judges very uncomfortable. This presents a Catch for victims. Emilie reported that she had been raped while intoxicated. Police told her that the suspects provided a video of her giving consent, but could not produce it when she asked. She was upfront with the investigating officer that her memory of the night was limited.
Police notes show the two men told police that Emilie was a willing participant in a threesome. The case was closed as unfounded — meaning no crime occurred or was attempted. Candice Wright was 22 when she was raped, she says, by a man she met a bar in Red Deer, Alta. Wright woke up naked in the front seat of her van, with faint memories of her head hitting something over and over.
Her last clear memory was bumping into the man on the dance floor before heading outside. In some cases, they said, they were literally blamed. No one is actually sure how many sexual assault cases involve alcohol or drugs, because more than 90 per cent of incidents are never reported.
But some studies have suggested that in half of all instances, one or both parties consumed alcohol beforehand. Hannah Varto, a certified sexual-assault-examination nurse in British Columbia, estimates as many as 80 per cent of the sexual assault patients she has treated either knowingly, or unknowingly, ingested alcohol or drugs. Sexual assault cases almost never hinge on whether a sex act occurred.
More often than not, consent is the focus of an investigation, and the influence of alcohol complicates what are already notoriously difficult cases to prove. People that are outright staggering, slurring their words, tuning out, lack of focus, tired, hard to wake up etc. In some paradoxical instances, a nurse has deemed a complainant too impaired to consent to an exam, but in court, a judge has found that they were able to agree to sex.
Elizabeth Sheehy, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and an expert on Canadian sexual assault legislation and legal practices, said she just recently reviewed one such instance with her class, R. Ryder, which went to the Supreme Court of British Columbia in The case involved a year-old complainant, E. On the night in question, E. She told the court that the drugs made her paranoid and caused her to hallucinate. When the accused began to make advances, E.
A passerby later found E. She was taken to the hospital for a sexual assault examination kit, but the nurses sent her home, because she was still too high, and hallucinating. Despite this evidence, the judge found that the reliability and credibility of E. We have some pretty strong jurisprudence.
The issue is we have a lack of will to actually apply it. In her case, the Chatham police investigation actually did appear to collect strong evidence that the year-old was extremely intoxicated — and plausibly unconscious — at the time of the alleged rape. However, it seems the lead officer misinterpreted the blood alcohol science. Taylor learned this information in an interview with the investigating officer, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe.
The timing of a blood alcohol test is crucial, according to two toxicologists who reviewed the case for the Globe.
The body eliminates alcohol at a rate of between 10 to 20 points per hour. She arrived at the hospital about four hours later, she says. Her hospital records make no mention of blood collected for alcohol levels, but one document shows that she gave blood at 7: The hospital declined to comment on this story, but Ms.
Even if Taylor was tested the moment she arrived at the hospital, forensic toxicologist James Wigmore told The Globe, working backward from the levels on record, her blood alcohol would have been between and , which still makes her version of events plausible. You have to look at the whole incident.
Drinking liquor — as opposed to beer and wine — is more likely to coincide with memory loss or pass-outs. So is drinking very quickly. Taylor did both of these things. The Chatham police declined to comment on their blood alcohol conclusion, but in a statement, Insp.
Shortly after Taylor was told her case was being was closed, K. Weeks later, the morning of the verdict, K. While some investigators may feel they are sparing a victim unnecessary pain by putting them through a potentially unsuccessful trial, K.
On the morning Oct. Tariq was guilty of sexual assault on the basis that K. Tariq was sentenced to two years and nine months in jail.
He fled to Pakistan before his sentencing hearing, where he remains at large. Have you reported a sexual assault to the police? If you would be willing to share your experience with The Globe and Mail, please email rdoolittle globeandmail.
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