Deemed 'unfounded' 20 years ago, rape case nets conviction

A decades-old rape case involving a then 12-year-old girl has resulted in a criminal conviction, 20 years after Ottawa police classified her allegations as unfounded. But the victim's lawyer says this isn't necessarily the end of the saga.

Ottawa victim's lawyer says she's now considering other options for compensation

Ottawa lawyer Blair Crew's client was raped when she was just 12 years old, resulting in her pregnancy. Her complaint was deemed 'unfounded' by Ottawa police at the time. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

A decades-old rape case involving a then 12-year-old girl has resulted in a criminal conviction, 20 years after Ottawa police classified her allegations as unfounded.

But the victim's lawyer says this isn't necessarily the end of the saga.

As first reported in the Globe and Mail, and verified by CBC News, 46-year-old Brian Lance of Ottawa pleaded guilty Sept. 10 to a charge of sexual interference and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Two other charges against Lance were withdrawn as part of the plea deal arranged by the Crown and defence.

There's still a sense that the mission is not complete for her until there's a full recognition of all of the wrongs that have been done to her, not just those done by the offender.- Blair Crew, victim's lawyer

Lance's name has been added to the sex offender registry. He has also been ordered not to have unsupervised contact with children, and is banned from possessing weapons for 10 years upon his release.

The victim's identity is shielded by a court-ordered publication ban.

Outcome 'surreal,' lawyer says

Her lawyer, Blair Crew, said in a CBC interview Friday that last week's sentencing was significant for him personally.

He first consulted with the victim in 2002.

Lawyer Blair Crew represented a woman whose sexual assault case was re-opened decades after she was raped at age 12. Her attacker was convicted of sexual interference and sentenced to five years in prison. 0:31

"This is the only case that I've seen gone from ... where it was closed as unfounded to being reopened and having charges laid and, ultimately, an offender that was sentenced," said Crew, who works as review counsel for the University of Ottawa's legal clinic.

"So in that way it's the most remarkable day that I've experienced. It was surreal to see just one of these cases come to justice after so long."

Victim became pregnant

Court heard that in late 1997 and early 1998, when the girl was 12 and 13 years old, she was repeatedly attacked by Lance and became pregnant with his child.

"There was no biological relationship, but he was effectively a caregiver for her who had access to her during the day, when the attacks occurred," Crew said.

The girl told her mother when she eventually realized she was pregnant, Crew said. But Lance had warned her not to talk about it, so the victim at first said the father was a schoolmate, and gave her mother a fake name.

Soon after, Crew said, the girl told her mother the truth and went to police with her attacker's real name.

Case closed

"The police, although promising at the time a thorough investigation, for reasons unknown didn't ever complete one," Crew said.

"The astounding thing ... was that right when she first reported it, the child of the rape had been born and there was DNA evidence available had they chosen to get it and follow up the investigation. But they didn't do so at the time, and the case was closed as unfounded."

An Ottawa man who raped a 12-year-old girl two decades ago was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. 7:51

The victim addressed the matter in her victim impact statement, Crew recalled.

"She of course had no prior experience with sex, and it was an uncomfortable topic for her," he said.

Case reopened in 2017

In 2015, Crew represented the victim at a hearing of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which ruled in her favour and awarded her $28,000.

That vindication, coupled with the Globe's February 2017 reporting on unfounded sexual assaults in Canada, prompted the victim to ask Ottawa police to reopen her case, Crew said.

She had recently made contact with her son, who'd been adopted by another family years earlier, and so police had DNA to check against the suspect's.

Criminal charges were laid against Lance in June 2017.

Still seeking 'full recognition'

Crew said his client is considering other options now that a criminal conviction has been secured. They're closely watching a lawsuit in London, Ont., involving a different sexual assault victim who wasn't believed, seeking damages from the city and its police force.

"I think that she does feel that there should be a scheme of compensation for her for the way that her life was altered," Crew said of his client.

"There's still a sense that the mission is not complete for her until there's a full recognition of all of the wrongs that have been done to her, not just those done by the offender."