British Columbia·Exclusive

Alleged victims sue B.C. man wrongfully convicted of multiple sex assaults

The Canadian justice system may have ruled Ivan Henry was wrongfully convicted of sexually assaulting eight women, but five of his alleged victims are going to civil court, claiming he did, in fact, attack them — and they're demanding Henry be stripped of the millions of dollars he was awarded in compensation for 27 years behind bars.

Despite Ivan Henry acquittal, 5 women claim they were sexually assaulted by him and seek millions he received

Ivan Henry was acquitted of sex crimes in 2010 based on errors in law, but was never fully exonerated. (CBC)

The Canadian justice system may have ruled Ivan Henry was wrongfully convicted of sexually assaulting eight women, but five of his alleged victims are going to civil court, claiming he did, in fact, attack them.

They're demanding at least some of the millions of dollars he was awarded last year, after he served 27 years in prison for convictions that were eventually quashed due to legal errors.

In a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court, the women allege they were each sexually assaulted at knife point by Henry between May 1981 and June 1982.

In an interview with CBC News, they say they testified to that effect in the 1983 trial, and thought the case was closed with his conviction.

Then came his acquittal.

They say they've had to be silent for almost 35 years — unable to re-enter the legal debate — until now. 

'Unjustly enriched' — lawsuit

Their lawsuit will be argued in civil court, which has a lower legal threshold of proof.

In criminal court, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil law, cases are decided on the balance of probabilities.

The women claim that Henry "has been unjustly enriched by profiting from the sexual assaults that he committed."

"I'm so angry he received money for that," says one the five Jane Does pursuing the lawsuit. Their names are protected by publication bans.

"I don't want to see him compensated. I want that out of his pockets."

The infamous 1982 Vancouver police lineup photo of Ivan Henry in a head lock, one of the errors in law and policing that led to his acquittal on sex charges by the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2010. (CBC)

In the civil claim, the women seek "a disgorgement of any and all such profits" received by Henry.

Disgorgement is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as depriving the wrongdoer "of his or her ill-gotten gains."

The lawsuit is also seeking aggravated damages, for "physical injuries arising from sexual assaults, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression (and) moral injury."

It alleges Henry "has conducted himself outrageously and maliciously … by attempting to contact one or more of the plaintiffs from prison."

The lawsuit doesn't elaborate. Henry, 70, was released from prison in 2009.

In 2010, the B.C. Court of Appeal quashed his convictions on legal grounds.

At least $8M in compensation

In 2015, Henry sued Crown prosecutors for mishandling his case, federal justice ministers for failing to review his conviction, and Vancouver police for botching the original investigation.

Last year, Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson ordered the B.C. government to pay Henry $8 million in compensation. He also received unspecified settlements from the federal government and the City of Vancouver.

Vancouver police searched for the so-called 'Rip-off Rapist' preying on women in the Mount Pleasant area from May 1981 to June 1982. (CBC)

The courts later appeared to cap the total compensation at around $8 million when it ruled the province could deduct the other settlements from its payment.

But the women's lawyer, J. Scott Stanley, says his clients are not that concerned about clawing back the cash payout.

"When the criminal justice system fails you, and any other legal forum fails you, they really have no choice but to resort to their own civil claim," says Stanley. "Not because they want money, but because they want justice."

O.J. Simpson case

Stanley calls the lawsuit "extraordinarily unique" — and it could be the first case in Canadian legal history where a man found wrongfully convicted in criminal court will be pursued for the same crimes in civil court.

"The judge who assesses this will determine whether or not (Henry) probably did it," says Stanley. "We don't have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt."

And he draws a comparison to the infamous U.S. case of O.J. Simpson, who was found not guilty of murdering ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1995, but was sued by the Goldman family and found responsible for the deaths in 1997.

"There's a big difference between someone who's been acquitted and someone who's been fully exonerated. David Milgaard was fully exonerated and O.J. Simpson was just acquitted."

Milgaard was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder in 1969. He spent 23 years in prison and was freed when DNA tests linked another man to the crime.

Ivan Henry chronology

Between 1981 and 1982, Vancouver police began investigating a series of sexual assaults committed by a man they labelled "the Rip-off Rapist".

Women living in ground floor or basement suites in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood were being targeted in the early hours by a man wielding a knife.

After breaking in, he first claimed to be looking for someone who ripped him off for money or drugs, then he sexually assaulted his victims.

Ivan Henry, who had recently arrived in Vancouver after serving time for a 1977 attempted rape in Winnipeg, was rounded up.

An infamous photo of the Vancouver police line-up showed him being held in a headlock by a uniformed officer as others laughed.

A close-up of the 1982 Vancouver police lineup photo, showing uniformed officers restraining Ivan Henry. (CBC)

Henry was charged, acted as his own lawyer at trial and was convicted. He was quickly ruled a dangerous offender and handed an indeterminate prison term.

But similar sexual assaults continued to occur and a second suspect was identified.

In 2009, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled his case should be re-heard, and Henry was released on bail.

In 2010, the appeal court reviewed Henry's 1983 conviction and found there were so many legal errors in the trial and the police investigation, the only appropriate remedy was to "quash the convictions and enter an acquittal on each count."

In May 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada cleared the way for compensation. 

Later that year, the City of Vancouver fought Henry in court, but settled with him for an undisclosed amount just as some of the women now involved in the civil suit were about to testify.

Then in 2016, the women say they watched in disbelief when the courts ordered the province to pay Henry $8 million.

'This is my chance'

"If we had been heard, we wouldn't be here now," says Jane Doe. "I haven't had a voice for 35 years."

She believes if the women had been able to testify at recent court hearings and give their version of the events, Henry would never have been awarded compensation.

"Now it's going to be heard and I'm not shutting up until it's finished," she says, referring to the civil lawsuit.

"This is my chance to be heard."

A legal response has yet to be filed by Ivan Henry.

The allegations have not been proven in court. 


Eric Rankin

Investigative journalist

Eric Rankin is an award-winning CBC reporter. His honours include the 2018 Canadian Screen Award for Best Local Reportage, the 2017 and 2015 RTDNA awards for Best In-depth/Investigative Reporting, and the 2009 Jack Webster award for Best News Reporting.