Annapolis Valley train-wreck rape case: Why the RCMP has some 'splainin' to do

Two sets of photographs of the victim were taken, the first set as part of her Sexual Assault Nurse Examination, and the second by Bridgetown RCMP. Bridgetown RCMP couldn’t even find their own photographs according to senior Crown Bob Morrison:

“I asked the officer, ‘You never found those photos?’ The officier said, ‘No, we’ve looked through everything, there’s no record of them ever being received’, that sort of thing.

“And I asked him because he was going to be asked this on the stand, so have you contacted the officer that took the photos to see if he has a copy of them. He said, ‘Well, no. I never did.’

“So, then I said, ‘Let’s call him right now.’

“So, I called him in New Minas and he said, ‘Yeah, I have a copy of them and I can print you off a new disc and provide them.’ That’s what resulted in the delay from the 15th to the 28th of February.”

On this, Chief Crown Ingrid Brodie chimes in:

“When Bob started asking questions of the member who was caretaking the file, ‘Well, have you asked this? Have you asked that?’ We discovered that he had not. We can’t explain that. But it’s truly unfortunate that the member had not.”

Ingrid again pipes up, with a bit of a not-apology for the Bridgetown RCMP actions:

“Evidence shouldn’t be lost. As Crowns we don’t presume to do the police’s job for many reasons. One, we are not trained investigators. Two, we don’t have supervisory authority, and, three, we have to let them do their job.”

Bob on being at the mercy of the Bridgetown RCMP:

“If police don’t find any evidence for whatever reason, that’s all I’ve got.”

Bob on lost evidence:

“It’s unusual and unfortunate.”

Ingrid on the Bridgetown RCMP:

“We’re never going to be able to answer all the RCMP questions, because we have no supervisory authority over them.”

Bob on the missing Sexual Assault Nurse Examination kit and the Bridgetown RCMP:

“There was nothing in the file I received from Bridgetown RCMP that indicated a full sexual assault nurse examiner kit had been done at the hospital (Cobequid/Lower Sackville) and there is no mention of any photos being taken at hospital. There was nothing I was provided with by police that indicated pictures were taken at the hospital or that there was a full Sexual Assault Nurse Examination done at the hospital.

“What we had in the file was that you had gone to the hospital and some biological samples had been collected and sent to police and they had sent those off to the lab for DNA analysis. And all that was done. But we didn’t have anything about a SANE examination. There was nothing in the file to indicate photos were taken at the hospital.”

Bob tries again:

“In March, I contacted the Bridgetown RCMP and asked is there anything there about this SANE kit and they said, ‘No, we have nothing in our files about that. We don’t have additional photos. We don’t have any other medical records about anything’.”

Again, Bob speaks on the mysterious journeys of the victim’s rape kit, etc., etc.

“Where this material was sent to and who received it, I don’t have an explanation for that. It was a real mess. And it was that outstanding disclosure and the period from February to June when the SANE kit was finally found and disclosed that Judge Tufts would not deduct from the gross delay.”

Originally the bio samples were turned over by the Bridgetown RCMP, but somehow the rest of the SANE kit didn’t make it to Crown Bob. This puzzled Ingrid:

“That’s what’s so bizarre about this.”

Bob is equally puzzled:

“I don’t know where the disconnect is and it’s frustrating that I don’t have an explanation for it.”

And Crown attorney Bob Morrison is pissed off, too:

“It’s not the way I would like to see evidence handled.”

Ahhhh! The prodigal SANE kit returns, according to the Gospel of Bob:

“I contacted the sergeant in Bridgetown and I said to him, ‘This is a problem – this lost disclosure has been a problem throughout this file – and we’re going to be in trouble and I just want you guys to be prepared for that. This is going to impact this prosecution going forward.’

“So, he actually detailed an officer to search the exhibit room in Bridgetown and then to search the exhibit room at the Middleton detachment, from top to bottom, to see if they could find if any of these items had ever been received and for, again, unexplained reasons, a disc with the SANE photos was found in the Middleton exhibit locker NOT Bridgetown and it wasn’t attached to any file. It was just sitting in the exhibit locker. And so, I don’t know if it was sent to Middleton by mistake by the SANE program or if it was moved by the RCMP from Bridgetown to Middleton for some reason.”

This exciting news was not greeted warmly by the young lady victim:

“You mean to tell me a disc of my naked pictures was left on a shelf by some employee, just left there!”

Bob is lost for answers:

"I can’t believe this series of missteps that took place with the disclosure on this file because all of these items that contributed to the delay we should have had well in advance of the trial… that’s what’s so unsettling about this —- is that there isn’t a good explanation for why things happened.”

Ingrid’s theory on the Bridgetown RCMP & her Great Eureka Moment:

“Back in the day if we wrote to the RCMP and asked, ‘Do you have X?’ and they said, no, that was an answer that we could have complete faith in that they did everything that was necessary, we didn’t go into their supervisory mind.

“We will, I guarantee you, have a sit-down as a group of Crowns and look at our practises. But one of the things we’ve already observed is that no longer can we simply ask an investigating officer, him or herself, that if the answer simply doesn’t make sense then we have to go up the chain of command and ask supervisors to take a second look.

“That would not have been historically a routine practise – not to take the word of the primary investigator or even somebody who was watching a file, but we know now that the changing rollover (retirements, etc.) means that we now have to, which isn’t necessarily naturally our role to second guess every action of every police officer, but certainly in mid to major cases it’s what we’ll have to move forward with.”

Mmmm, does Ingrid think crafty defence lawyer Zeb Brown pulled a little Rope-A-Dope on her man Bob?

“It sounded like the defence was agreeing to dates and because we’ve had very few delay applications historically when a defence said, ‘Well, I want June but I’ll accept August’ we took that as waiver, as their acceptance or consent that that was a good date. We know now that the judges are going to rule that isn’t (a good date), and so the other thing we need to tweak is that at every adjournment we’re going to say either: is defence waiving 11b (unreasonable delay) consenting to the next date, or, if they’re not then we’re moving forward with some part of this case.”

Oops, here’s a testy exchange:

Victim: “I’m seeing a lot of people just throwing everybody else under the bus. I want to know who’s going to be held accountable for misplaced evidence and how this is going to be fixed moving forward. I want to know why the golden sheriff’s son walked?”

Crown Bob: “I didn’t let him walk. I argued to keep the case going. I argued he should be convicted. I thought it was a strong case and I think I said that from the very beginning.”

What now, Ingrid?

“Bob has already let the RCMP know what the decision is and that it is a very difficult and troubling decision. Then once we have the transcript, we’ll send the transcript to not just the members who were directly involved but to the detachment commander to say while we don’t have supervising authority, we invite you to review this case.”

What now, Bob?

“Judge Tufts made a funny comment at the end of his decision which I’ve never heard a judge make before. He said once he calculated the delay and decided there was going to be a stay, he said if another court (Appeals Court) found that I was wrong in this calculation then I would be prepared to give my decision on the merits of the trial in very short order.”

What now, victim?

“The system is broken and I’m sick and tired. I was born in 1984, so we have always sat around tables like this talking about how the system is broken, the system is broken. When is it going to be fixed when women are coming to me saying, well, do you think I should go forward and I have to say — the system is still broken guys! “What in the hell do I tell other women, victims of sexual assault — one in four of us it happens to — what do I tell them? Do I tell them that these loopholes exist for the greater good or that the laws are written by rapists and they, not us, are being protected, because that’s what I see!”

Read Annapolis Valley train-wreck rape case Part 1