Rape victims denied legal funding in wrongful conviction case
Jon Woodward, CTV Vancouver
Published Thursday, November 13, 2014 6:17PM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, April 21, 2015 12:14PM PDT
Women who survived knifepoint sexual assaults 32 years ago say the justice system is victimizing them again by refusing to provide legal funding as a wrongful conviction civil suit nears trial.
Those women wish the trial of their alleged attacker, Ivan Henry, had been better run decades ago, and can’t believe that physical evidence that could have been used to prove his guilt or innocence through DNA technology, was lost.
“It would have been better for everyone if that evidence had been preserved,” one woman told CTV News and W5, adding that without that evidence they may never be able to get justice owed to them.
CTV News and W5 have spoken with four women who can’t be identified because of a publication ban. They say they are survivors and have lived productive, fulfilling lives since the early 1980s.
“We’ve survived a horrendous assault many, many years ago. It took quite some time to get over that,” said one.
In 1981 and 1982 more than twenty women were attacked in basement apartments in Mount Pleasant, Kitsilano, the West End and Marpole.
Police arrested Ivan Henry on the strength of a tip from his wife, his similarity to a police sketch drawn with help from a victim, a live lineup and a photo array. Henry was convicted of 10 counts of rape, attempted rape, and indecent assault, despite maintaining his innocence.
However flaws with the trial resulted in Henry’s convictions being overturned 27 years later. Henry was not declared innocent as is common in these cases and has sued for compensation. The Vancouver Police have responded in court alleging that Henry was responsible for one or more of those attacks.
Another man, Vancouver plumber Don McRae, was convicted of 3 similar rapes through DNA evidence. Most physical evidence in Henry’s case was disposed of, so DNA testing is impossible.
A portion of the trial was argued in Supreme Court in Ottawa Thursday. The women’s pro bono lawyer, Angus Gunn, did apply for intervener status for the women at Henry’s Supreme Court hearing but were denied because they may be called as witnesses.
Henry’s lawsuit is a complicated legal process, and while there is a publication ban that protects victims, hearing about events in court is disruptive and traumatic, two women told CTV News.
“We have made several requests for funding so we can get our own lawyers,” one woman told CTV News.
The first request, around May 31, 2011, was denied on June 2, 2011, with lawyer Keith Johnston saying, “The A.G. is not prepared to provide legal funding for legal representation in the circumstances here.”
Another request on November 8, 2012, was made to then-Attorney General Shirley Bond. Two women also attempted to ask Justice Richard Goepel for help in the case, but were told in the hallway by a government lawyer that the answer to that request was no.
Then, on December 8, 2012, the women approached Shirley Bond again. It appeared that the government hadn’t responded to the final request. When approached by CTV News, a spokesperson of current Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said they would deny it a third time.
Two women told CTV News and W5 that they believe Henry was the attacker. Another told W5 she “is pretty sure Henry didn’t do it.”
A fourth woman said she believes Henry was the attacker, but having seen a picture of the other suspect, Don McRae, on W5, said she believes that McRae may have entered her apartment some two weeks after she was attacked.
The fourth woman wondered if both men could have been involved in criminal acts.
Henry’s case will be heard at the BC Supreme Court in 2015.