Doug Snelgrove facing retrial after Supreme Court of Canada dismisses appeal

A decision by the nation's top court clears the way for a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer accused of sexual assault to be tried again, after he was initially found not guilty by a jury.

Jury had acquitted RNC officer of sexual assault; N.L. Court of Appeal ordered new trial

RNC Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove was acquitted of sexual assault at his first trial in 2017. (Glenn Payette/CBC)

A Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer is facing a second trial for sexual assault, after the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by Carl Douglas Snelgrove to avoid another trial over a 2014 incident.

Snelgrove had been acquitted by a jury in 2017.

But in a ruling last fall, he was ordered to face a second trial by the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal.

In a 2-1 decision, the province's top court found that the trial judge erred in law in her instructions to the jury.

Snelgrove appealed that decision to the top court in the country.

Incident occurred in 2014

Days before Christmas in 2014, Snelgrove was on duty when a woman asked for a ride home from a downtown St. John's bar.

The two returned to the woman's apartment and had sex.

At trial, Snelgrove acknowledged he was in uniform that night and knew the woman, 21, had been drinking.

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by RNC Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove on Friday morning. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The woman testified she was "too drunk to stand up," and had little recollection of what happened at her apartment.

Asked at trial, "Do you think it's possible that you consented to have sexual relations with that man?" the woman replied: "Because I was so drunk, I don't know how I would have acted. I can't say for sure what I did or didn't do."

A publication ban protects the identity of the woman involved. 

'There was no requirement to take her home, but he does'

Prosecutors sought a second trial, arguing the woman was too intoxicated to consent to sex, and that Const. Snelgrove was in a "position of trust" as a police officer on duty.

Following a brief hearing and a 15-minute deliberation, the five Supreme Court of Canada justices issued a terse decision, ruling that a jury be asked again to consider whether the officer abused a position of trust in engaging in sexual activity with a person who was highly intoxicated.

"There was no requirement to take her home, but he does," said Supreme Court Justice Michael Moldaver.

"Getting her potentially in a position where she has feelings of trust towards him because he helped her…that's inducement."

A crowd of about 100 people gathered outside RNC headquarters in St. John's in February 2017 to protest after Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove was found not guilty of sexual assault. (Jen White/CBC)

Moldaver said if evidence of inducement exists then a jury should be instructed to consider that.

"That's all we're doing here," said Moldaver. "We're not deciding."

Randy Piercey, lawyer for the accused officer, argued prosecutors must prove intent to induce sexual activity, otherwise "we open the floodgates." 

Justices disagreed with defence argument

But the five justices disagreed. Their decision was unanimous.

"If someone in a position of authority sets up a situation, then that's cause and effect," said Malcolm Rowe, the first Supreme Court justice appointed from Newfoundland and Labrador.

"By virtue of setting the stage, that fulfills the requirement of inducement."

No date has yet been set for a second trial.

Snelgrove is suspended without pay from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, pending the conclusion of proceedings against him. 

The RNC declined comment Friday, noting the case is still before the courts.


Holly Doan

Freelance reporter

Holly Doan is a freelance writer based in Ottawa.