Women suing Ivan Henry face 'insurmountable' hurdles: lawyers
Five women who were sexually assaulted in brutal attacks in the early 1980s are suing Ivan Henry, saying he should pay them the millions he was awarded after he spent 27 years behind bars.
That’s despite almost a decade of legal wrangling that resulted in Henry’s convictions being thrown out, a judge awarding him $8 million at a trial that found his rights had been violated, and another man pleading guilty to a string of rapes that bore a resemblance to the crimes.
The women, who are only known as “Jane Does” in the lawsuit, claim “punitive damages as a result of the sexual assaults” and say that Henry has “profited as a result of the sexual assaults.”
No one has been properly held accountable for several of those attacks, said Louisa Russell of Vancouver Rape Relief.
“Those women are still living without any justice,” said Russell. “It’s unfortunate they have to launch a civil suit to have their voices heard.”
Their lawsuit was filed on Friday, but Henry himself wasn’t aware of it when contacted by CTV News Monday.
Henry’s lawyer, Marilyn Sandford, told CTV that the botched police investigation into Henry led witnesses astray when they were presented with a bogus lineup with Henry in a headlock by three smiling officers.
“Your memory can be influenced by improper procedures. That’s why the police used to follow those procedures,” said Sandford. “They’re not allowed to do that anymore.
“The tainting of the evidence, the nature of how they originally described their perpetrator in their first statements, those facts present an insurmountable hurdle in my view to a successful lawsuit against Mr. Henry.”
An investigation into the case by CTV’s W5 found that the other suspect was a man named Don McRae, a local plumber who used his business to scope out the homes of potential victims.
McRae was ignored by police who pursued Henry even though there was no physical evidence linking him to the high-profile crimes of the so-called “rip-off rapist,” who usually told women that he was looking for someone who “ripped him off” before they were attacked.
“There might be a legitimate lawsuit that the police had McRae in their sights and didn’t pursue it properly and he continued to assault people. That’s something someone could have a look at,” Sandford said.
“We know that he continued to commit assaults, and we know they match the perpetrator of the earlier assaults. Our theory is because that’s the same perpetrator,” she said.
In 2005, DNA evidence linked McRae to three of the assaults in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, and he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Authorities noticed the similarities to the Henry cases, and the B.C. government appointed a special prosecutor, which led to the acquittal. Henry had to sue for compensation for his time in prison.
The case is the first such one where victims have sued some who has been acquitted, said UBC Innocence Project’s Mark Gervin.
The plaintiffs may be hoping that someone who was found not guilty with a standard of reasonable doubt may be found guilty on the lower civil court standard of balance of probabilities.
But that ignores that Henry has already won a civil lawsuit himself, he said.
“I don’t know that Mr. Henry is the right target and I don’t know if they’ll be successful in convincing a judge to move forward on that,” Gervin said.
The women’s lawyer, Scott Stanley, said he was not permitted by the women to give anything more than the following statement:
“As a community, we need to hear from every anonymous Jane Doe who has ever been sexually assaulted. I believe we would all be shocked to learn of the number of Jane Does living in our communities.”