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This article was published 8/6/2016 (2049 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba justice officials have dropped a child sexual abuse case — citing the fragile nature of the 12-year-old complainant along with troubling flaws in her story that began to emerge.
The girl's former foster parent was set to begin his Court of Queen's Bench trial on Wednesday on a charge of sexual assault. Instead, Crown attorney Melinda Murray entered a sudden stay of proceedings, saying it would be unsafe to proceed.
The alleged victim went to police three years ago, saying she had been molested by the man tasked with caring for her under a Child and Family Services placement. He has always denied wrongdoing and was going to fight the allegations.
Recently, it came to light through CFS documents that the girl had made similar abuse allegations back in 2009 against another man, when she would have been five years old. They were found to have no merit and didn't proceed. But Murray said it was an alarming discovery since the girl had specifically denied making such claims in her past.
"Her response to me was confusing and muddled," Murray told Justice Joan McKelvey on Wednesday. "It was still problematic from the Crown's perspective in going forward."
The Crown's case hit another roadblock last month when the girl attempted suicide while in custody on a series of criminal charges. A forensic report also shows she is suffering from several cognitive issues including suspected fetal alcohol syndrome and possibly autism spectrum disorder.
"It makes it difficult for a Crown to have a complainant with all these vulnerabilities," said Murray. This triggered plenty of internal questions in the Crown's office about whether putting her on the witness stand — where she would no doubt be grilled about her past allegation that only recently came to light — would be a wise thing to do.
"There was debate and discussion about whether testifying would be beneficial or traumatizing. In the end, the Crown took the position that testifying would traumatize her further," said Murray. There were fears such a process could "push her over the edge" given her current state.
As a result, the Crown elected to abandon the prosecution. McKelvey called it a "fair and reasonable decision."
"My client and his wife are most grateful. This has been a devastating experience for them," defence lawyer Sheldon Pinx told court. "Justice has been done. But he doesn't feel, when he walks out of this court today, that he's won anything. He's a loser in many respects."
Pinx said his client lost his job as a result of the criminal allegations, which have made the past three years on bail a nightmare. The man recalled a conversation he once had with a CFS worker when the girl was first put in the care of him and his wife, along with their son.
"Be careful with this child. She's prone to make up stories," Pinx told court Wednesday about the warning his client was given. As a result, the man was always careful to never be alone with the girl, which was going to be part of their defence to suggest the alleged abuse could not possibly have occurred.
"There is another human side to this story," Pinx told court.
The Crown has one year to reinstate a criminal charge they have stayed, although that is rarely done.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.