Justice system 'riddled with loopholes,' says child sex assault victim after charges dropped

A man who says he was a victim of sexual abuse from the ages of 8 to 12 wants his story told after a devastating decision was made in a southern Alberta courtroom last month.

Jorden Van Voorthuizen was to be tried 2nd time in sexual assaults of 2 boys but charges were dropped

Jorden Van Voorthuizen was accused of molesting two children beginning in 1995. His charges were stayed because it took too long for his matter to make its way through the courts. (Supplied)

It took 10 years for David to muster the courage to tell family members about the sexual abuse he says he suffered beginning when he was just eight years old. It took another decade before he kicked the addictions he believes are tied to that trauma.

Now, David — not his real name, a publication ban protects his identity — wants his story told after a devastating decision in November in a courtroom in Lethbridge, Alta..

"I had no idea the justice system is riddled with loopholes that people can swim their way through," said David in an interview with CBC News.

David has two reasons for speaking out: he wants the man he says tormented him for years behind bars and he wants to do whatever he can to protect other child victims.

Originally convicted in 2013

Jorden Van Voorthuizen was originally convicted in 2013 of molesting two boys, including David, between 1995 and 2001. 

The Alberta Court of Appeal overturned that conviction and ordered a new trial because the judge didn't properly instruct jurors before they began deliberations.

Then,in November, after David had travelled from Ontario to Lethbridge to testify on the first day of the second trial, Van Voorthuizen's lawyer made a Jordan application, meaning he argued his client's right to a timely trial was violated.

The judge agreed and stayed Van Voorthuizen's charges.

"I thought I could finally close that chapter … I am so angry at the way this thing turned out," said David.

In the last few days, however, a small victory has David feeling hopeful again; the Crown is appealing the judge's decision to stay Van Voorthuizen's charges.

'Problem child'

Because he can't be identified, many of the details of David's story can't be told. That's one of the reasons he's trying to have the ban lifted. 

Anonymity is designed to protect sexual assault victims, but David feels it's only served to protect his alleged abuser.

David's childhood was "tumultuous," he says. He believes his troubles at home and his substance issues were directly related to the sexual abuse he says he suffered. 

Jorden Van Voorthuizen was convicted once on allegations that he sexually assaulted this man, whose identity is protected by a publication ban. The conviction was overturned by the Alberta Court of Appeal but in the middle of his second trial, the judge directed a stay of proceedings because of 'unreasonable delay' in the case. (Supplied)

A self-described "problem child," David was a drug addict by the age of 13 and familiar with officers from his local RCMP detachment. 

"It kicked the shit out of me. I was a drug addict on and off from 13 to 28," he said. 

David tells his secret

By the time he was ready to talk about the abuse, David had put time and distance between himself and the man he says preyed on him for four years. 

At 17, David left Alberta and moved to Ontario. Soon after that, he told his family what had happened to him. 

Taking the next step and reporting Van Voorthuizen to police was "daunting," said David, but he began what would be a years-long process of telling his story over and over again: to police, prosecutors and in court.

He testified at the first trial that from the ages of eight to 11, Van Voorthuizen preyed on him, engaging in sexual activities.

A second victim told a similar story.

Once Van Voorthuizen was convicted, David said he finally felt like he had a clean slate to start over.

"I'm 31 years old now and I've managed to work through most of these issues. But I didn't really start getting anything out of life until I was 28, until after that trial was done."

'I need to stay clean'

Last summer, a Supreme Court decision put hard timelines on what is considered an unreasonable delay for bringing criminal matters to trial.

Defence lawyers can now file so-called Jordan applications — named after the high court decision that gives the Crown 18 months to get provincial court matters to trial and 30 months for superior court cases.

David appreciates the need for trials to be held in a reasonable amount of time, but he argues Van Voorthuizen's case made its way through the system before the new law. He also takes issue with crimes involving child victims, a factor he believes the courts should take into account.

"Where's the justice in this? If we're not looking out for young people, who are we looking out for?"

David's not worried this latest setback will threaten his sobriety. He is worried other children will be victimized. 

"I need to stay clean to get things done," he said. 

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.