Carrie Low's police complaint about rape case to be reheard
In a statement, Low said she was pleased with Nova Scotia judge's decision
A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has ordered the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner to re-examine the case of a Halifax woman who says the police investigation into her rape case was systematically mishandled.
In May 2019, Carrie Low complained to the independent commissioner's office that Halifax Regional Police failed to properly investigate a rape committed against her in May 2018.
Low discovered over the year following the rape that police had not processed her toxicology report or rape kit, and not visited the scene of the crime.
The commissioner, Judith McPhee, dismissed Low's complaint that the police in general had failed to investigate properly. McPhee told Low her complaint was outside the six-month time limit laid down in the Police Act.
Low and her lawyer, Jessica Rose, then sought a judicial review of that decision.
In a decision released Thursday, Justice Ann Smith set aside the commissioner's decision, and ordered that the complaint be reinvestigated by the office.
In a statement, Low said she was pleased with the decision.
"This is a selfless victory and the decision in and of itself will hopefully pave the way for the necessary changes for all future [Halifax Regional Police] complaints specifically those raised by victims of sexual assault," she said.
In an interview, Rose said the judge's decision keeps the police complaint system accountable. She said all Low wanted was for the commissioner to process, hear and address her complaint.
On Thursday evening, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said they are committed to ensuring justice for victims and survivors.
"Allegations of sexual assault are very concerning," said Barbara MacLean. "We are reviewing the decision now."
Sometimes victims unaware of police failure
Rose said the court has directed the time limit should only apply once there is "discoverability" of negligence.
"When the police fail the public or when they fail a civilian, sometimes that person is unaware of the failure," Rose said.
"The day that they find out about the police failure is the day a limitation clock on their complaint should start to run, and that's what this decision states, which is really good news for the public and those who interact with the police."
In January, the province announced it will change the Police Act to extend the time limit for someone to file a complaint against a municipal service from six months to one year.
The new legislation will also give the independent police complaints commissioner the authority to extend the time frame to more than one year if there's a public interest in doing so.
Rose said the new limitation period, which will come into effect next year, doesn't exclude the doctrine of discoverability.
"Which means that by all accounts it should apply moving forward into the new regulation," she said.
Sexual assault victims at particular disadvantage
Rose said Low's case has highlighted that sexual assault victims are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to limitation periods and it might prevent them to seek justice when police fail in their duties.
"I think every civilian, every victim of crime, everyone who's involved with police, they will derive a benefit from this ruling potentially," Rose said.
"But I think women and sexual assault victims, because of those unique disadvantages and the inability at times to get information about their file, I think that's who's really going to get the biggest benefit."
Rose said Low's complaint will now go back to the commissioner for a review.
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With files from Aly Thomson and Emma Davie