Manitoba

Stay of sex assault charges after court delays leaves Manitoba woman feeling victimized, silenced

More than 10 years after she was sexually assaulted, a woman was bracing to face her attacker in court. But on Friday, she was told by the Crown the accused's charges had been stayed because the case had taken too long to go to trial.

'Somebody didn't do their job and because of that, I don't get my justice'

Case of woman sexually assaulted thrown out because of court delays

1 year ago
Duration 2:25
The case was set to go to trial in June. But a few days ago the woman recently learned the accused's charges were stayed because of the Jordan decision.

More than 10 years after she says she was sexually assaulted, a Manitoba woman was bracing to face her alleged attacker in court later this year.

But last Friday, she was told by the Crown the accused's charges had been stayed because the case had taken too long to go to trial.

Because the alleged offence happened when the accused was a teenager, that person cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Due to the nature of the allegations, CBC is also not identifying the woman.

The woman said she was assaulted in February 2009, when she was 16. She was walking to a bus stop in Winnipeg's West End when it happened. 

"I was put in a closet after I was assaulted and I stayed in that closet for a little while until I didn't hear any sounds, any movement, you know, nothing," she said.

"I ran down the street and I flagged down a police car and they drove me to the Health Sciences Centre where I got the [sexual assault evidence] kit. There I sat and I talked with detectives." 

In 2019, the Winnipeg Police Service found a DNA match for her case. They arrested and charged a man with sexual assault. 

A trial was set to start on June 14 of this year — but on Friday, the woman said she was told by a Crown attorney the charges against the accused are being stayed because her file sat on a desk for too long after he was arrested. 

Now, she says, she feels angry, let down and betrayed. 

"Really disgusted, honestly.… I feel victimized. I feel silenced," she said.

"You have this sense of empowerment, of being able to go and face your assaulter in court and you feel silenced," she said.

The woman says she's been preparing to go to trial to face her attacker. She's been keeping all her documents in a binder. (Submitted)

CBC reached out to the defence counsel, who said they filed a motion stating there was an unreasonable delay in this case. 

Based upon a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 2016, also known as the Jordan decision, provincial court trials must be completed within 18 months of charges being laid, and can be extended to 30 months if there's a preliminary inquiry. Superior Court cases have up to 30 months to be completed. 

The defence said after consulting with the constitutional branch, the Crown has directed a stay of proceedings.

'I don't get my justice'

The woman questions why her case took so long to go to trial. 

"I feel that somewhere down the line, somebody didn't do their job and because of that, I don't get my justice," she said. 

The woman says it has taken her a long time to be able to recount the incident, as the assault has severely affected her life. At one point, she says, she considered suicide. 

"I became a mother and … my son is six and he saved me. If he wasn't here, I don't think I would still be here. He gave me something to live for," she said. 

CBC asked Winnipeg Police Service for comment, but has not received a response. 

In an email, a spokesperson for Manitoba Justice said the department is unable to speak to the specifics of this case, but all Crown attorneys are expected to flag any matters that might be affected by the Supreme Court of Canada's decisions and timelines. 

When individual factors are considered, the spokesperson said, cases might not be in jeopardy of dismissal, even though they've exceeded the timelines set out by the Supreme Court. 

"If there is a delay motion, justice officials review the entire case file to see what happened, the causes of delay and ensure follow up for any recommendations needed to address any systemic concerns," the spokesperson said. 

Manitoba Justice says it's working to ensure cases move forward efficiently to meet timelines. It also offers training and supervision to Crowns throughout their careers on issues such as this, she said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peggy Lam

Reporter

Peggy is a reporter for CBC News, currently based in Winnipeg. She's interested in stories about medicine, health care and accountability. She has a master's degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in human geography. You can reach her at peggy.lam@cbc.ca

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