N.W.T. judge questions RCMP's treatment of 13-year-old sexual assault victim

A 13-year-old girl in Hay River, N.W.T. spent a night in a jail cell for violating her probation curfew, even after disclosing to the arresting officer that she had just been sexually assaulted, according to a judge's ruling.

13-year-old girl in Hay River, N.W.T., taken to jail rather than hospital

A Crown prosecutor is moving to have an Alberta man declared a dangerous offender in a case that raises questions about the RCMP's treatment of victims of sexual assault. (Chantal Dubuc/Yellowknife)

A Crown prosecutor is moving to have an Alberta man declared a dangerous offender in a case that raises questions about the RCMP's treatment of victims of sexual assault.

Last month, Cody Durocher was convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in Hay River, N.W.T. It was his third sexual assault conviction.

At that trial N.W.T. Supreme Court Justice Louise Charbonneau had some harsh words for the way that girl was treated after disclosing the incident to police, noting that instead of being taken to hospital, she was put in a jail cell for violating her probation, where she remained until the following evening. 

Durocher, 31, was convicted of raping two women in different towns in northern Alberta in 2010. He pleaded guilty to the first after DNA evidence linked him to the attack. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Durocher was sentenced to three years for the second attack.

In court, the 13-year-old Hay River victim said Durocher sexually assaulted her on January 11, 2014.

Testifying from another room in the courthouse through closed circuit video, she said she was at a 64-year-old man's house when she phoned a friend at the Hay River highrise. Durocher picked up the phone. The victim said he invited her over, offering to pay for the taxi.

Offers vodka, hash oil

Security video from the highrise that was entered as evidence during the trial shows Durocher waiting in the lobby and letting her in as she arrived. The video also shows her leaving a few hours later.

The victim said Durocher passed her a mickey bottle of vodka he was drinking from. As she was taking a drink, he squeezed the hand she was holding the plastic bottle with, forcing more alcohol into her mouth. She testified he offered her hash oil and asked if she smokes crack cocaine.

She said she tried to leave the apartment, but Durocher came up behind her and forced the door shut, closing it on her finger. A photo of her blackened fingernail was entered as an exhibit at the trial. She says it was shortly after that that he sexually assaulted her.

The girl said she then returned to the house of the 64-year-old man, who she described as "a friend," where she drank and smoked marijuana.

No examination, no help

The girl was on probation.

That night, police checked to see if she was obeying a curfew she was under. When they did not find her at home, they went to the 64-year-old's house and arrested her. It was shortly after that arrest that the girl told the arresting officer she had been sexually assaulted. The officer said she was very intoxicated and very emotional.

Justice Charbonneau described what happened next.

"What happened after the disclosure was not that she was taken to a hospital to be examined or anywhere else where she might receive help. What happened to her was she was put in a jail cell and, at 13 years old, she remained in that cell until the following evening, when the officer came back on night shift."

The judge spoke those words in a ruling on whether the trial could continue. During the trial, after hours of questioning by the Crown and Durocher's lawyer, the girl said she needed a rest. She did not return to finish her cross-examination the next day.

The judge ruled the trial could continue, and that, given the way the girl was treated, she would probably not have issued a warrant for the girl's arrest to compel her to finish her cross-examination if either of the lawyers had asked for one.

'They need that support'

An organization that helps victims of crime says the RCMP should be calling them whenever it's taking complaints from victims of sexual assault.

"There's many feelings a person is going through — embarrassment, shame," said Marie Speakman, a victim services worker with the Native Women's Association of the NWT in Yellowknife. "They think, 'What's going to happen in court?' They need that support right from when they disclose sexual assault to the RCMP."

"It's a giant step, gathering enough courage to disclose that you've been sexually assaulted."

Speakman says victim services will accompany victims to the hospital if an attempt is made to get DNA evidence. They advise them on the court process and their rights as victims.

The Crown has applied to have Durocher assessed by a psychiatrist, the first step in any dangerous offender application.

Durocher is appealing his conviction, partly on the basis that his lawyer was not allowed to complete his cross-examination of the victim.