Barrhaven sexual assault never happened: police

Ottawa police said the alleged daytime sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl in the Ottawa neighbourhood of Barrhaven earlier this month never happened.

Ottawa police said the alleged daytime sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl in the city's Barrhaven neighbourhood never happened.

According to the initial report from police, on January 18 the alleged victim was forced into an older, red SUV on Tartan Drive, threatened with a handgun and sexually assaulted before being dropped off at the Fallowfield Road Park and Ride lot.

The report launched an extensive police investigation and put Barrhaven residents, many of who still remember the 2005 killing of 18-year-old Jennifer Teague, on high alert.

Police said Tuesday said the reported attack was unfounded, and as a result the case had been dropped.

"We feel that the incident did not happen," said Sgt. Jeff Webster.

No mischief charges

Police said they would not be laying mischief charges against the teen.

University of Ottawa criminal lawyer Blair Crew, said about a third of investigations into sexual assault end with police saying the allegations are unfounded.

And although Crew wouldn't make any comment on the specifics of the recent case, he said Ottawa police tend to discount a higher proportion of sexual assaults than they do other crimes.

Crew said for a four-year period from 2003-2007, 31 per cent of sexual assault claims that Ottawa Police investigated were dismissed as unfounded — that is, they never happened — as opposed to unsubstantiated, where there isn't enough evidence to follow the case.

He said by comparison, Toronto's police — which had gone through an audit in how it conducts sexual assault investigations — found only seven per cent of claims to be unfounded.

And the rate of claims reported to police that are ruled unfounded tends to be about two to three per cent for other crimes, said Crew.

"The fact that [sexual assault] has got a rate that is ten times higher than any other crime suggests that perhaps there are not as many unfounded cases as perhaps the Ottawa police think there are," Crew told CBC's Ottawa Morning.

He said police, still largely male-based organizations, tend to view sexual assaults as something that didn't occur and treat claimants more as suspects than as complainants.

"Frontline sexual assault workers as well as a parade of women that have been in my office over a number of years have been insisting they were sexually assaulted despite the police insistence that no crime occurred," he said.