Woman sues RCMP officer involved in sexual assault interrogation video
Published Thursday, June 20, 2019 9:52AM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 20, 2019 7:11PM PDT
An Indigenous woman is suing the RCMP and the officer who subjected her to a "demeaning, insulting and abusive" interrogation after her complaint of sexual assault, according to a notice of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court.
Video footage of the more than two-hour interview with the alleged victim shows the male officer, identified in the suit as Cpl. Kenneth Hall of West Kelowna, asking whether, even subconsciously, she was "turned on during this at all, even a little bit."
The woman, who was in the care of B.C.’s Ministry of Children and Family Development when she says the assault happened, alleges in the suit that two employees of that ministry were "negligent individuals."
"Hall, acting in concert with the negligent individuals, carried out no meaningful investigation and did not make any significant inquiries into the complaint brought forward by the plaintiff," the suit says. "Hall and the negligent individuals used the degrading, malicious interrogation as a punishment for the plaintiff."
The woman is also suing the federal attorney-general and the B.C. Minister of Justice.
The video is from 2012, but was published and first reported on by APTN News recently after being released in a civil lawsuit against the B.C. Ministry of Child and Family Development.
The footage shows the officer asking the woman, "Physically, you weren’t at all responsive to his advances? Even maybe subconsciously?"
In May, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told the House of Commons he found the behaviour in the video "absolutely abhorrent."
CTV News is not identifying the woman as she was 17 at the time of the interview. Her claims have not been tested in court, and statements of defense have not been filed.
The RCMP has already ordered a review of the case. Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan has said the RCMP also sees problems with the interview.
"We agree that on the surface this case doesn’t appear to align with public expectations or current standards and practices in place when addressing sex assault investigations and supporting victims. We also recognize that a negative experience with police investigators can bring more trauma to victims, and discourage others from reporting these crimes," Strachan said in a news release.
The RCMP has said that Cpl. Hall is not responding to questions from the media.
Justin Boardman, who consults for police forces and trains them in how to make them more sensitive to how trauma affects the victims they interview, said the video was "very traumatizing to the victim."
"The interview itself was bad. It was counterproductive. It wasn’t getting the evidence it needed for the case," he said.
Better training to improve empathy would result in a less traumatic interview -- but also an interview that would produce better police work, he said.
"That helps us build a better case for the justice system. You can locate evidence that we didn’t have before."