Nova Scotia

N.S. should pay wrongly accused, suggest lawyers

Two prominent Nova Scotia lawyers say it may be time to set up a process for compensating the wrongfully accused after a former resident spent four decades wrongly labelled a sex offender.

Two prominent Nova Scotia lawyers say it may be time to set up a process for compensating the wrongfully accused after a former resident spent four decades wrongly labelled a sex offender.

Gerry Gaston Barton was 19 years old and living in Digby County, N.S., in 1970 when a teenage neighbour accused him of raping her and fathering her child.

Barton appealed his conviction and it was quashed in 2011, with the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruling that a "miscarriage of justice" had occurred. He's now suing the the Attorney General of Nova Scotia and the Attorney General of Canada for their handling of his case.

The Nova Scotia government is forcing him to take his compensation claim to court.

"They made it clear they are going to fight this tooth and nail," said Barton’s lawyer Dale Dunlop.

Darrel Pink, executive director of the Nova Scotia Barristers Society, said while the organization has no policy on compensating the wrongfully convicted, he personally believes its time to deal with them a new way.  

"Several royal commissions have recommended that government should have standing bodies or at least a fixed process in which these types of situations can be considered," he said.  

Dalhousie law professor Wayne MacKay agrees. He said forcing Barton to pursue a lengthy process is another burden.

"It seems to me it adds to the injustice to some extent that it requires the victim on his or her initiative to to pursue the justice system, face opposition from government to get compensation," he said.

Dunlop says his client doesn't expect to get rich, but said he deserves something for the impact the  wrongful conviction has had on his life.

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