British Columbia

Ivan Henry's innocence not in question, judge rules on Rape Relief application

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has rejected an attempt by Vancouver Rape Relief to argue that a man acquitted of sexual assault after nearly three decades behind bars is actually guilty.

Ruling thwarts attempts to have alleged victims testify in court

Ivan Henry, who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in 1983, spent 27 years in prison. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

There are to be no more arguments about guilt or innocence in what is supposed to be a trial over compensation for a wrongfully convicted British Columbia man, says a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

Justice Christopher Hinkson threw out an attempt by Vancouver Rape Relief to argue that a man who spent nearly three decades behind bars before his acquittal in 2010 is actually guilty of sexual assault.

The support group had applied for legal standing to appoint a lawyer who could question Ivan Henry's "factual innocence" during his lawsuit against the provincial government.

"Mr. Henry's guilt has been determined ... by the criminal-law process that culminated in the decision reached by the B.C. Court of Appeal, which acquitted him of all of the charges," said Hinkson, reading from his decision in court on Tuesday.

"The only remaining defendant cannot relitigate those claims," he added, referring to the province.

Both the federal government and the City of Vancouver were also named in the compensation lawsuit, but they have since reached undisclosed settlement agreements with Henry.

Group wanted alleged victims to be heard

Henry was convicted in 1983 of 10 counts of sexual assault involving eight women. He was declared a dangerous offender and locked up indefinitely.

Had Hinkson approved Vancouver Rape Relief's application, the women's group would have been able to appoint an amicus curiae—or "friend of the court"—to intervene in the lawsuit. That would have paved the way for testimony from women who still claim they were sexually assaulted by Henry.

But Hinkson ruled the group didn't have enough of a genuine interest in the complaint to warrant its argument being heard.

"The applicant has no stake in these proceedings, nor does it work to represent any of the 1980s' complainants," he said.

"In a sense all Canadians might be said to have a general interest in such claims, but the applicant has no greater interest in such claims than other Canadians."

Allowing the appointment of an amicus curiae would have also imposed an unnecessary burden on already-scarce judicial resources, Hinkson added.

Allegations 'unequivocally' withdrawn

The City of Vancouver declared in its opening pleadings that it would contest Henry's acquittals and was on the cusp of introducing testimony in court from one of his alleged victims.

However, after reaching a settlement agreement the day before the woman was scheduled to testify, the city released a statement saying it "unequivocally" withdrew its allegations that Henry was guilty.

Vancouver Rape Relief then filed its application last Friday, which spokeswoman Louisa Russell said was partly to provide Henry's alleged victims with the opportunity to speak.

"We thought it was important that the public hear their side," said Russell.

Speaking outside the courtroom, Russell expressed disappointment over the judge's decision.

"The court decided ... to not hear the views of the women who believe they identified the correct attacker," she said.

Russell insisted the alleged victims would find other avenues to have their voices heard, including at this weekend's memorial held in Vancouver to remember the women who died in the Montreal massacre.