Nfld. & Labrador

Free app walks listeners through sex assault trial of RNC officer found not guilty

The app aims to walk listeners — literally — through the sexual assault trial of RNC officer Doug Snelgrove.

'The definition of consent is as messy legally as it is in the public's imagination'

Chris Brookes, left, and Emily Deming, right, created the Consent app. (Paula Gale/CBC)

A new app aims to walk listeners — literally — through the foggy, grey area that lies between the public and legal understanding of consent.

"It seemed very stark and obvious to me that there's a disconnect between a legal understanding of consent and the understanding on the street," said Battery Radio's Chris Brookes, one of the podcast's creators.

"And if our justice system is ultimately a reflection of our social mores, then there's got to be some kind of a connection here. Maybe something has to change."

Consent takes listeners from the deck at the Sundance bar on George Street to the courthouse on Water Street in St. John's. (CBC )

Consent takes listeners from the deck at the Sundance bar on George Street to the courthouse on Water Street in St. John's.

Along the way, triggered by the listener's location, snippets of testimony from the sexual assault trial of RNC officer Doug Snelgrove play in the listener's ear buds.

"There's no fiction in this. It is what it is," Brookes said.

There's also an armchair version that doesn't require listeners to walk the route to hear it.

Verdict prompted protests

Snelgrove, a 10-year veteran of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, was charged with sexually assaulting a woman after she asked him for a ride home after a night on George Street in 2014. She was drunk, and said she passed out. When she came to, she said, Snelgrove was having sex with her in her apartment.

Const. Doug Snelgrove was found not guilty of sexual assault last February. (Glenn Payette/CBC )

He was on duty and in uniform at the time.

The case went to court in 2017 and hinged on whether the complainant, who was 21 at the time, had consented to sex or was in a position to consent.

A crowd of about 100 people gathered outside RNC headquarters in St. John's last February to protest after Snelgrove was found not guilty of sexual assault. (Jen White/CBC)

He was found not guilty, and the verdict prompted days of protests and calls for the RNC to fire him.

The Crown is appealing the verdict, and Snelgrove remains suspended from the force.

Narrative helps understanding

Writer Emily Deming wrote about the trial for The Overcast. Her coverage impressed Brookes so much, he asked her to create the podcast with him, he told The St. John's Morning Show.

"I really realized that the definition of consent is as messy legally as it is in the public's imagination," Deming said of covering the trial.

Deming covered the trial for the Overcast. (Submitted by Emily Deming)

During the trial, she said it seemed that "the law is not predicated on consent, it's predicated on perception of consent."

"You can have somebody who was sexually assaulted and somebody who is not a rapist, legally."

Using edited transcripts from the trial read by actors, Consent gives the trial a chronological narrative structure, and Deming hopes that will make both the story and the issues it explores easier to understand.

"By understanding the story you can understand the legal issues," she said, adding that information gives people a better starting place for conversations about change.

Brookes hopes the podcast helps people understand how the law works when it comes to consent, and not just people who are looking to help change the law.

"I would hope that somebody going out for a Saturday night … might think about things in a deeper way than perhaps they had when they left the house."

The free app is available for both iPhone and Android, and will be officially launched on Sunday at The Ship pub in downtown St. John's.

"It has already sparked some really interesting and some really difficult discussion," said Deming.

"I'm hoping that people who feel all sorts of ways about even the idea that the app was created and the concepts in the app will come down and we can have a really great conversation."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Krissy Holmes