Third sex-assault trial ordered for retired RCMP officer
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A retired RCMP officer, who was twice convicted of sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl, has been ordered to stand trial a third time.
The 62-year-old, who cannot be identified by name under terms of a court-ordered publication ban, was first convicted of assaulting the girl following a trial in 2017. That conviction was overturned and a new trial was ordered after the Manitoba Court of Appeal ruled the original sentencing judge erred in assessing the man’s credibility.
Last year, the accused was convicted a second time following a trial before provincial court Judge Keith Eyrikson, who increased the man’s original sentence from 10 months to 18 months in jail.
Court heard evidence at trial the man had assaulted the victim when he was off duty during a bonfire party in the Interlake. Prosecutors alleged the man was alone with the girl “stargazing” when he put his hands under her clothes and fondled her for approximately three minutes.
The man denied the allegation and testified at trial the only time he was alone with the girl was when he took her to his motor home to use the bathroom.
At a hearing in July 2021, in which the man was convicted, Eyrikson said he had “significant difficulty” with that testimony.
The man told court he showed the girl how to use the toilet and waited outside for her for 10 minutes before he “lost track of her” and left.
Court heard testimony the man and the girl arrived back at the bonfire at the same time.
“It was clear from his evidence he was making sure this nine-year-old girl was safe and supervised while he was with her, then when (she) finishes in the bathroom, he simply abrogates this responsibility and leaves her on her own,” Eyrikson said.
“This, on a cold, dark night, by all accounts, leaving her in an RV she has never been in before. This is a former RCMP officer and grandfather. It defies common sense and logic that he does nothing further to make sure she got back safely to the campfire.”
In a decision released earlier this month, King’s Bench Justice Shauna McCarthy ruled Eyrikson used “flawed reasoning and impermissible inferences” to conclude the man was not telling the truth about his interactions with the girl.
“Because I am unable to safely determine that the verdict would have been the same had the trial judge not made an error, the matter must be sent back for trial,” McCarthy said.
The man also appealed his sentence, which McCarthy reduced to the original 10 months imposed after his first trial.
Eyrikson said the 18-month sentence recognized the direction of a 2020 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled sentences for child-sex offenders should increase as society’s understanding of the harm inflicted on children deepens.
The man’s lawyer argued the longer sentence effectively punished him for appealing his original conviction. Pandemic-related court restrictions also delayed resolution of the case.
“I accept (the man’s) argument that had the system been functioning in the normal course, he would have likely been sentenced prior to (the Supreme Court) decision,” McCarthy said.
A spokesperson for Manitoba Prosecution Service could not confirm whether it will move forward with a third trial or stay the charge against the man, saying in an email: “the matter is being reviewed.”
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.