Cop accused of harassment, sexual assault says he approached women as sources, not for sex
Closing arguments in trial of Winnipeg police Const. Remi Van Den Driessche to be heard Friday
When Remi Van Den Driessche approached two sex trade workers on the street, it was because he wanted to establish connections and sources — not because he wanted to sexually assault or harass them, he told a Winnipeg court Thursday.
"I was taught from the start to always be on the lookout for other crimes and interact with people on the street as much as possible," the 43-year-old Winnipeg Police Service constable testified.
Van Den Driessche was arrested in early 2014 and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, extortion, criminal harassment, and breach of trust in connection with five women.
One of the alleged victims has since died. Charges in connection to another were stayed Thursday, after the Crown told Judge Sandy Chapman her testimony was unlikely to support a conviction. Charges in connection with a third alleged victim were stayed Wednesday after she could not be located to testify.
In testimony last year, a woman alleged Van Den Driessche approached her in his cruiser as she was walking in the area of Jarvis Avenue in September 2011 and struck up a question that quickly turned to sex. The woman alleged Van Den Driessche pushed her to flash him and later made repeated trips to her Main Street hotel with the aim of collecting sexual favours.
The woman alleged Van Den Driessche stuck his finger in her mouth on one occasion and put his fingers down her pants on another.
Thought woman could provide info on drug trade: accused
Van Den Driessche denied making any sexual advances on the woman. He said he first met her on Nov. 8, 2011 around lunchtime, as she walked on Jarvis Avenue.
"It's a known prostitution area," he said. "Given the time of day, it was unusual to see a woman walking alone."
Van Den Driessche said the woman told him she was walking to a meeting with a women's support group. He said he checked a police database on his cruiser computer and found that she had recently been arrested for prostitution.
After some further conversation, Van Den Driessche said he asked the woman if she would be interested in providing information to police about the drug trade in the area.
"She indicated that she would think about it," and provided Van Den Driessche with her cell phone number, he said.
Van Den Driessche said he texted and called the woman several times but never talked to her. He said he didn't see her again until October 2012 when he arrested her on an outstanding warrant.
He said he last saw her was in June 2013 when he stopped at her hotel and she told him to "f--- off."
Court heard the woman's name had been searched 73 times on a police database during that time period.
Van Den Driessche admitted to making some of the searches, telling court he wanted to see if she "was ever involved in any other police occurrences or a reason for her not returning my phone calls."
Another former sex-trade worker testified Van Den Driescche harassed her and repeatedly called her at home to see if she wanted to "hang out" and "get high."
Van Den Driessche told court he "spot checked" the woman five or six times on the street but never talked about anything sexual or called her at home.
Closing arguments in the case are expected Friday.