Unfair stereotypes of domestic assault victims led to conviction for B.C. woman, court rules
Faye-Ann Thompson was found guilty in break-in; she says she was fleeing a violent boyfriend
UPDATE — Aug. 26, 2019: The break-and-enter charge against Faye-Ann Thompson was stayed by the Crown on August 7 2019, meaning she will not be prosecuted. Her previous conviction remains overturned.
Faye-Ann Thompson maintains that a series of unhappy coincidences caused her to be an unwitting accomplice in a 2014 break-in.
She says she'd been abandoned by a violent boyfriend who'd just beaten her bloody, when she happened upon a home in a remote area of the B.C. park. She asked the man standing outside for a ride and he said he'd be happy to help — but he'd accidentally locked his keys inside the house and needed her help getting them back.
And that's how Thompson's fingerprints ended up inside a second-floor window of the house, she told a provincial court judge. She'd assumed the man owned the property and the car in the driveway, not that he was a burglar.
The judge found that explanation implausible, in part because Thompson hadn't called police after the alleged assault. Thompson was found guilty in 2017 of breaking and entering.
But this week, justices at the B.C. Court of Appeal tossed out that conviction and ordered a new trial for Thompson, writing that the lower court judge had based her findings "on impermissible stereotyping about how domestic assault victims typically react."
In a 2-1 decision, Appeal Court Justice Susan Griffin said it was "erroneous reasoning" to assume that a victim of domestic assault would call police.
"The judge did not address the possibility, founded on Ms. Thompson's evidence, that the failure to call the police was because Ms. Thompson was afraid of her boyfriend and still in a relationship with him, and did not want to risk his further anger," Griffin wrote.
Justice David Frankel concurred with Griffin's reasons, but Justice Daphne Smith dissented, saying she would have dismissed the appeal.
'She was hurt, bleeding from her scrapes and scratches'
During Thompson's trial, she testified that she and her boyfriend were living in Mission and working at Manning Park Resort on the day of the break-in in early August 2014. They were touring through the park when they got into a "huge fight" while driving along a logging road, she said.
"During the fight, her boyfriend dragged her out of the vehicle by the hair causing some of her hair to fall out, punched her in the back of the head, pushed her down a hill, and then drove off leaving her alone in a remote area. She was hurt, bleeding from her scrapes and scratches, frightened, and crying," Griffin wrote of Thompson's testimony.
Thompson said she walked for more than two hours before she came across the house, where she saw a man standing beside a ladder. He introduced himself as "Jason," and asked her to climb inside a partially open window and let him into the house so he could retrieve his keys and give her a ride.
She testified that she did as she was asked, then waited outside for about 15 minutes before "Jason" returned and drove her home to Mission, B.C.
When the true owners of the house returned, they found their car had been stolen, and a camera, $300 in cash and a purse were missing. The burned-out vehicle was later located in the Mission area.
'The last thing in the world I would do'
At trial, prosecutors suggested Thompson had completely fabricated the events leading up to the break-in. During cross-examination, a Crown lawyer asked why she hadn't used the phone at the house to call police.
Thompson replied, "Would you call ... if [your boyfriend] hurt you and you were in a relationship with him? And then you'd be in even more trouble if you called the police? That's the last thing in the world I would do is call the cops."
She testified that as the abuse escalated, she eventually did report her ex to police in Mission and Calgary, and that she had photos of the bruises he'd given her.
But, "no one at trial sought to call further evidence to refute or corroborate Ms. Thompson's evidence," Griffin wrote.
Griffin pointed out that there was evidence that might support a conviction for Thompson, but the lower court judge's guilty finding relied too heavily on unfair assumptions.
Thompson is scheduled to make her next appearance in court on Feb. 14 to fix a date for a new trial.