Nova Scotia

Gerald Barton, wrongly convicted of rape, appeals for compensation

Nova Scotia's highest court has reserved its decision in the case of a 64-year-old Digby man who is seeking compensation from the RCMP because he was wrongfully convicted of statutory rape 45 years ago.

Barton is trying to win compensation in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal

Barton and his lawyers argue he suffered loss and humiliation from the stigma of his conviction — a conviction, they say, was largely due to an incompetent police investigation. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's highest court has reserved its decision in the case of a 64-year-old Digby man who is seeking compensation from the RCMP because he was wrongfully convicted of statutory rape 45 years ago.

Four years ago, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruled that Gerald Barton was a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

For most of his adult life, Barton carried the label of rapist, accused of forcing himself on his young neighbour and fathering a child with her back in 1969.

But Barton didn't do it.

The girl and her family lied to get Barton convicted. The lies were to cover up a dark family secret — that the girl and her younger sister were actually abused by their older brother.

It wasn't until an RCMP officer started looking into the case again in 2008 that the lies were uncovered, and DNA testing revealed the truth of who had fathered the woman's child. It was, in fact, her brother.

Barton and his lawyers argued he suffered loss and humiliation from the stigma of his conviction — a conviction, they say, was largely due to an incompetent police investigation.  

Last year, Barton made these same arguments to a justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, and lost. This appearance at the Court of Appeal is a bid to get the Supreme Court decision overturned.

'Somebody had to take the fall'

Barton's lawyer, Dale Dunlop, said the Supreme Court failed to rule on a confession Barton supposedly gave police in 1969.

"We know that there was a false confession," Dunlop said outside court on Wednesday. "Our position was that Justice Chipman didn't make a ruling on that at trial and that he should have."

The federal government lawyer representing the RCMP at the appeal argued Barton wasn't convicted because of the false confession.

"Is it false? I don't know," Angela Green told the five-member panel of the appeal court. "I'm not satisfied on the evidence that it is false."

Green also said Barton's request for compensation of $75,000 is high, considering he didn't spend more than a few hours in jail.

The lawyer for the provincial government said it never received a request for compensation from Barton. Dunlop said he was "naive" to assume that once Barton's case was declared a miscarriage of justice, the province would begin negotiations.

He said it appears Barton was made a scapegoat.

"When you read behind the scenes, back in 1969, incest was a very bad and rare occurrence. It was an embarrassment to this community. Somebody had to take the fall for it and I think it was Gerry Barton," Dunlop said.

There's no word on when the Court of Appeal will make its decision.

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