British Columbia

B.C. man acquitted on decades-old rape convictions

Ivan Henry has been acquitted of all 10 sex-related charges that sent him to prison for 26 years, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday morning in Vancouver.

Ivan Henry has been acquitted of all 10 sex-related charges that sent him to prison for 26 years, the B.C. Court of Appeal said Wednesday morning in Vancouver.

The 63-year-old Vancouver man was convicted in 1983 of three counts of rape and seven other sexual offences but maintained his innocence throughout his more than two decades in prison, before he was released on bail last year.

"This is kind of overwhelming," said Henry as he stood on the steps of the courthouse surrounded by his two daughters and legal team after the ruling was announced.

"I would have to thank my family, because [if] it wouldn't have been for my family, I don't think that I would have made it," he said.

Surprisingly happy

Henry's cheerful demeanor surprised many on hand for the ruling, but he said he was not angry or bitter.

In his words

Read a transcript of Ivan Henry's reaction to his acquittal.

"It would not heal me if I was angry," he said. "That wouldn't do any good. I would just walk around then start drinking or whatever. No, I can't do that."

He has yet to decide yet if he plans to seek compensation for his wrongful conviction. Instead, his immediate plans included getting his teeth fixed and spending time with his family and his new dog, he said.

"I've got grandkids that I'm so proud of, and I got a little dog that I look after, and he's my friend," he said.

Henry was freed last year when a special prosecutor concluded there may have been a miscarriage of justice in his case, and a police investigation pointed to a different suspect in the attacks.

He said adjusting to life after 26 years in prison was difficult at first.

"It was really hard to get out, eh, you know," he said. "There was a lot of things that bothered me when I first got out, eh. Specifically … everybody, so many people, so many cars, so many … just everything .… It was really hard on me, because I come from 1982 and we didn't have the same amount of people and stuff.

"I'd still like to say to people that are still incarcerated, don't give up," he said.

"All I care about is justice prevailed today," said his daughter Tanya Olivares.

"This has been a sentence for my dad but also to my sister and I. It's 29 years of knowing nothing else."

Imprisoned in 1983

Henry's convictions related to the rapes of several women that occurred between May 1981 and June 1982 in three Vancouver neighbourhoods.

This 1982 Vancouver police lineup photo, with an officer holding Ivan Henry in a choke hold, was submitted to the B.C. Court of Appeal, which has overturned his convictions. (CBC)

On Wednesday the appeal court ruling quashed all the convictions and granted him an acquittal on all 10 counts.

The appeal court said the trial judge erred by instructing jurors they could find Henry guilty because of his reluctance to participate in a police lineup in 1982 and that the instructions on the proper identification of a perpetrator were inadequate. Henry represented himself at the original trial. 

It also ruled the charges should have been divided into separate trials and a mistrial should have been declared when the Crown abandoned an application for jury instruction.

The court ruled any of the errors would require a new trial if considered alone but that evidence against Henry as a whole was incapable of proving the element of identification on any of the 10 counts, and thus the verdicts were unreasonable.