Lawyer Files Lawsuit Against Newfoundland Government Over Provincial Police Sexual Assault Allegations

Lawyer Lynn Moore says she has identified at least three RNC officers who are accused by her clients of raping the women after they were offered to drive them home from downtown bars.Paul Daly/The Globe and Mail

A lawyer representing eight women has filed a lawsuit against the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, alleging a series of sexual assaults by on-duty police officers who she says were like sharks circling prey in the bar district of St. John’s.

The civil suit is the latest fallout from a scandal that rocked the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, North America’s oldest law enforcement agency.

A flood of complaints against provincial police have emerged since the sentencing last May of Doug Snelgrove, an on-duty RNC officer convicted of raping a 21-year-old community college student after he offered to bring her home from a bar. in 2015.

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Lynn Moore, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit, says she has identified at least three officers who are accused by her clients of raping the women after they were offered a ride home from downtown bars. None of the officers would still be employed by the provincial police, she said, although some of the women had difficulty identifying their attackers.

Mr Snelgrove, who has been suspended by the RNC pending his appeal, is one of the officers charged by the women, she said. Many of the women who have shared their stories with her say they never filed a complaint with the police and were tricked into contacting the lawyer after the officer’s high-profile trial.

The sexual assaults took place over several decades and involve alleged victims between the ages of 22 and 44, she said. One was a policewoman, Ms Moore said.

“I believe these police officers were looking for victims,” she said. “I also believe there are other women who have been assaulted as well, who don’t have the status of those women or the agency to come forward, and I haven’t heard of them.”

The lawyer also filed Jane Doe applications that would protect the women’s identities, which in Newfoundland requires each to undergo an expert assessment before a ban on their name can be imposed.

Ms Moore said the requirement “unnecessarily re-traumatizes these women” and calls for legislative changes to put civil cases on an equal footing with criminal cases, where publication bans to protect victims are easier to obtain.

“In Newfoundland, we don’t have the kind of provision that allows me to just go to court and say, ‘I want a publication ban,'” Ms Moore said. “The process of getting this order involves telling a story of what happened to them before they even started, which in some cases requires them to relive the trauma.”

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The RNC, which is an arm of the provincial government, declined to comment on the lawsuit but said any allegations of criminal activity against its officers will be fully investigated. The province’s independent police watchdog said it was investigating three RNC officers, two of whom are retired.

The provincial government also said it could not comment on an ongoing lawsuit. A declaration has already been filed; Ms Moore says another is coming once Jane Doe’s applications have been processed.

“The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador can confirm that it has received a statement from a person alleging that he was assaulted by an RNC officer. As this matter is before the Court, the province will not comment,” Lesley Clarke, spokeswoman for the Department of Justice and Public Safety, said in an email.

Under Newfoundland law, a person who sues another person for sharing their intimate images is granted the pseudonym Jane Doe – protection that is not automatically granted in cases of alleged rape.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Ms Moore said. “I’ve spoken to cabinet ministers about this and said, ‘If you really want to do something about sexual assault, here’s something you can change’, and they all nod and smile, then nothing happens.”

Requests for anonymity in compensation cases for sexual abuse and sexual assault are common in Canada. In Newfoundland, a person must show in court that there’s more than just embarrassment involved, said Geoff Budden, a St. John’s attorney who has represented victims of the St. John’s Boys’ Orphanage scandal. Mount Cashel and whose firm was the advocate of a historic decision. On the question.

For the orders to be granted, the court must be satisfied that the plaintiff’s health and well-being are at risk if they are named in the litigation, he said.

“It’s not that as survivors they have anything to be ashamed of course, it’s more about preserving their privacy and their ability to come forward in the face of personal exposure… which is going on. inevitably accompanies litigation,” Mr. Budden said.

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Jon J. Epps