B.C. woman 're-traumatized' after sexual assault case thrown out over delays
Jeeti Pooni says she survived a sexual assault and dealt with an unsympathetic court system to bring her alleged abuser to justice, only have the conviction thrown out due to legal delays.
Pooni says she was 11 years old when she was sexually assaulted by someone her parents trusted. She didn’t disclose the abuse until she was in her 20s, and says when she did, her sisters told her they, too, were abused by the same man. Later, all three decided to pursue criminal charges against the alleged abuser. That was 12 years ago.
"Last year he was pronounced guilty – four out of six charges – so once the judge gives that verdict how does that all change to no criminal record, no charges?" Pooni, a Metro Vancouver woman, told CTV News.
The accused was found guilty on counts including sexual assault and sexual intercourse without consent. Pooni and her sisters were expecting a sentencing this week, but instead were shocked when the case was stayed due to an unreasonable delay in the case.
A 2016 Supreme Court ruling known as the "Jordan decision" set out timelines for courts to hear cases. It is estimated hundreds of cases have been thrown out since that decision came down.
"I do feel the decision re-traumatized us," added Pooni.
When it comes to her case, Pooni hopes Crown prosecutors will appeal.
The BC Prosecution Service issued a statement saying it will be "reviewing the reasons carefully over the coming weeks to determine the next steps. There will be no comment from the BCPS while the review is underway."
Pooni and her sisters and their quest to highlight the issue of child sex abuse while taking their alleged abuser to court is the subject of an NFB documentary entitled "Because We Are Girls." The women may have thought their journey would be complete once the court case was settled, but now they have a new challenge on their hands.
Pooni also said the courts need to handle sexual assault cases in a better way. In a video posted to Facebook, she appealed to Justin Trudeau for a better system. She said special courts should handle these types of cases, to minimize the impact on those who come forward. She said her experience left her feeling unworthy.
"All Canadians deserve a justice system they can trust because mistrust harms all of us -- not just those of us who've been victimized," she added in the video.
The NFB said the documentary will have a theatrical release next month in Vancouver.