Gerry Barton loses bid for wrongful conviction compensation
RCMP officer who conducted initial investigation not negligent, judge finds
A former Nova Scotia man wrongfully convicted of rape more than four decades ago has been denied compensation by a Supreme Court of Nova Scotia justice in a ruling released Thursday.
Gerry Gaston Barton was 19 years old and living in Digby County, N.S., when a teenage neighbour accused him of raping her and fathering her child. He was convicted in 1970 and sentenced to probation.
RCMP reopened their investigation in 2008 when an officer learned new information about the case after being called to a dispute involving the complainant's family.
According to court documents, the fresh investigation revealed Barton's accuser had been sexually assaulted repeatedly by her brother, starting when she was nine years old.
The woman admitted to police that her brother was the father of her child. She said she had accused Barton because her father was not willing to accept that her brother had sexually assaulted her and caused her pregnancy.
Barton's conviction was overturned in 2011 following the complainant's admission and DNA evidence that proved he was not the father of the child.
No word on appeal
Barton, who now lives in Morinville, Alta., subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Nova Scotia government and the Attorney General of Canada. He alleged negligence and was seeking damages in the range of $500,000 and an apology.
But in his ruling, Supreme Court of Nova Scotia Justice James Chipman dismissed claims that the initial investigation conducted by Earl Hamilton, then an RCMP corporal, was negligent.
The judge says Barton's accuser lied under oath during a preliminary inquiry and the actual perpetrator of the crime also lied to police and committed perjury.
"These are the individuals responsible for Mr. Barton's criminal conviction, not retired inspector Hamilton," Chipman wrote.
Chipman ruled against compensating Barton. But the judge says if Barton appeals and wins, then he would be eligible for $75,000 in general damages.
It's unclear if Barton will appeal.
In an emailed statement Nova Scotia's justice minister said she respects the judge's decision.
"I feel for Mr. Barton and I know this has been a difficult experience for him," wrote Lena Diab. "I sincerely hope that having this case resolved helps Mr. Barton find some closure."