Edmonton

Alberta's chief judge will examine case of jailed sexual assault victim

Alberta's chief provincial court judge said he will look into the case of an Edmonton sexual assault victim locked up while testifying against her attacker.

'I will be conducting a detailed examination of all of the circumstances of this case'

The identity of a sex assault victim who was sexually assaulted in 2014 remains protected by a publication ban, despite the fact that she has since died in an unrelated shooting. (Edmonton Police Service)

Alberta's chief provincial court judge said he will look into the case of an Edmonton sexual assault victim locked up while testifying against her attacker.

"I will be conducting a detailed examination of all of the circumstances of this case to determine what, if any, lessons we as a court can learn," Judge Terry Matchett said in a statement.

His comments came the same day Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley appointed Manitoba criminal lawyer Roberta Campbell to conduct an independent investigation of Angela Cardinal's case and assigned a committee to make policy recommendations about placing victims or witnesses in custody.

In June 2014, Cardinal — a pseudonym the CBC has given her in light of a publication ban — was savagely attacked, stabbed and sexually assaulted by notorious sexual predator Lance Blanchard.
The mother of the sex assault victim wrote in an affidavit, 'It is important that (she) be named so that she is not simply another statistic.' (Zoe Todd/CBC News)

One year later, on the first day of a preliminary hearing into the case, Cardinal kept falling asleep and had trouble focusing and answering questions.

Crown prosecutor Patricia Innes asked that Cardinal be placed in custody under Section 545(1) of the Criminal Code, which permits a judge to imprison a witness who refuses to co-operate during a preliminary inquiry.

Court transcripts show defence lawyer Diana Goldie, assigned to the case by legal aid, agreed to Cardinal's incarceration. Provincial court Judge Raymond Bodnarek granted the request.

While testifying, Cardinal spent five nights at the Edmonton Remand Centre, even sharing a van with Blanchard on trips between the facility and the courthouse on at least two occasions.

Lance Blanchard was convicted of aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, forcible confinement and uttering death threats. (Edmonton Police Service )

She was brought into the courtroom in shackles. During court breaks, she was placed in a cell near her attacker.

Seven months after her ordeal with the justice system, Cardinal died in an unrelated shooting.

Matchett said he has no authority to review decisions made by judges during trials or preliminary hearings, including a decision to jail a witness.

"It is only in a situation where it is alleged that a judge has misbehaved or misconducted himself or herself in some way that the chief judge or the judicial council can review the matter and, in an appropriate case, impose sanctions," he said.

Matchett said he has not received any complaints about the Cardinal case to date.

'Important that [she] be named'

Cardinal's mother hopes any review will consider lifting the publication ban on her daughter's name.

"I believe it's important that [she] be named so that she is not simply another statistic," her mother wrote in an affidavit this spring that asked the court to release her 28-year-old daughter's name.
Crown prosecutor Patricia Innes requested the incarceration of sexual assault victim Angela Cardinal and subsequently asked another judge to continue a publication ban on the victim's name.

"I want people to understand what happened to her and to hear her story. I believe that this is what she would have wanted as well. [She] was very proud and could stand up for herself. She was a strong person. She should have a voice."

Despite her death and the affidavit written by her mother, the Crown has refused to ask the court to lift the publication ban on Cardinal's name.

CBC asked Crown prosecutor Patricia Innes recently if she would have done anything differently in the case, knowing what she knows now.

"No," she said.

Innes and Goldie declined interview requests.

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston

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