Toronto

Canadian singer accuses Toronto police, Crown of neglecting her sexual assault report

Canadian pop singer Jade Naraine from Toronto has filed an application for a judicial review after a Crown attorney stayed sexual assault charges against her alleged attacker. She believes the Crown attorneys did not do their due diligence when dealing with her case.

Jade Naraine filed for judicial review after Crown stayed charges in her sexual assault case

Singer Jade Naraine says her sexual assault report fell through the cracks after she reported it to police. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

A Toronto singer is accusing Toronto Police and the Crown of failing to investigate her sexual assault after she says investigators neglected her case for more than half a year. 

Jade Naraine says she promptly reported it to police, along with evidence from a rape kit and written testimony from people she told after it happened, but her case fell through the cracks.

Naraine says she was violently raped a year ago by someone she knew. 

"Last year was one of the hardest years of my life," she said.

The singer sent CBC Toronto hospital records that show she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the alleged assault. "I've struggled with nightmares, flashbacks," she said. She also says she's been avoiding "people and men."

I've struggled with nightmares, flashbacks....- Jade Naraine

Initially she says she had a positive experience with the detective who took her statement.

"He was very thorough, really nice," Naraine told CBC Toronto. "Things went downhill from there."

Naraine has since filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, a lawsuit against Toronto police and has applied for a judicial review of the Crown attorneys' handling of the case, after she tried to press charges on her own. The singer says she's hoping her actions will help other women who come forward to report sexual assault.

'Nobody really investigated'

Emails reviewed by CBC Toronto show Naraine followed up with the detective and his partner, Det. Maureen Trueman, multiple times over the next few months asking for updates on the investigation, but says she never received a response.

More than half a year later, she called the station and says she was told her case fell through the cracks after the detective who took her statement fell ill, according to Naraine's statement of claim. 

"[The officer] realized my case seemed to be the only one that wasn't re-assigned," she said. "Nobody really investigated it. I felt hurt, sad and angry."

Naraine asked that her case be re-assigned, but says she was told the original detective's partner, Trueman, was the only one who could take it on. She said Trueman closed the case within a couple of weeks, citing "inconsistent dates, making it impossible to know where the truth lies," according to Naraine's judicial review.

There was more than enough evidence.- Raj Napal, one of Naraine's criminal lawyers

"After doing no investigation for nine months, they just closed it. They didn't even bother interviewing a new witness that wanted to come forward," said Naraine.

CBC Toronto provided Naraine's allegations to Toronto Police. In a phone call, spokesperson Mark Pugash said police "will challenge everything she has claimed and we will respond extremely vigorously."

Private prosecution

Naraine didn't give up.

The singer called a handful of lawyers in Toronto for advice, sending her hospital records following the sexual assault and statements from people she told afterward. Naraine says they agreed police could have pressed charges based on her evidence.

Criminal lawyer Raj Napal says there was enough evidence for police to press charges against Naraine's alleged perpetrator. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

One of the criminal lawyers, Raj Napal, suggested a private prosecution, a way for private citizens to prosecute and present a case before a judge if police don't press charges.

"I believed her," said Napal, after hearing her story. "I don't understand why police didn't [press charges]. I think there was more than enough evidence."

'Credibility issues'

But Naraine's private prosecution attempt also went nowhere.

According to court transcripts, at what's known as a pre-enquete hearing, Crown counsel Richard Nathanson told the court, "the Crown is going to be intervening and staying these charges without any evidence being heard."

Napal believes the Crown should not have blocked Naraine's attempt to have her evidence heard before a justice of the peace, and the system should be changed so the JP decides if there is enough evidence to move forward from the beginning.

Mike Dmitrovic, owner of Voodoo Records, says he admires Naraine for continuing to pursue charges against her alleged attacker. (Sue Goodspeed/CBC)

"It's totally improper and wrong," said Napal. "We have a victim who says she was brutally sexually assaulted and nothing is done. It's unfair. It's unjust. It's appalling. It's shocking and it has to stop. And people have to listen."

But in court Nathanson elaborated on the Crown's reasoning.

"The Crown is not purporting to know whether or not [the alleged perpetrator] sexually assaulted [Naraine]" said Nathanson. "It's ultimately gonna come down to credibility issues."

Unrelated charges

Naraine is quick to address the credibility issues brought up by the Crown.

She and a few lawyers, including Napal, told CBC Toronto she's facing several minor charges unrelated to the alleged sex assault.

"It was unjust," Naraine said. "They're blocking me every step of the way."

Naraine agreed to a peace bond in a harassment case, in which she said an investor in a music video started coming on to her after he agreed to help fund it. She says she refused his advances, but continued to ask him for the money he promised. In turn, he had her charged with extortion and harassment.

Naraine says she was also charged with harassment after an ex-boyfriend blocked her "out of the blue" on his phone. She says she sent about a dozen text messages to him asking for an explanation. Naraine says her lawyer at the time told her to plead guilty to avoid a trial.

Naraine is trying to get back to recording music while pursuing the complaints and lawsuits. (Lisa Xing/CBC)

She was also charged with forgery after she reported her sex assault. Naraine says her ex-boyfriend wrote a character reference for her. After she went to police, she said he did as well, claiming she forged the reference letter.

"That was very degrading," she said. "I was innocent."

A new lawyer is representing Naraine to resolve the harassment and forgery charges.

Judicial review application filed last month

In late March, Naraine applied for a judicial review to fight the Crown's decision in her private prosecution. In the application, she asked for the court to "reopen the case and disregard previous Crown's reasons for staying the charges."

She is also asking for the court to advise the previous Crown attorneys involved in staying the charges to "reconsider and research what is in the public interest" and added the Crown's reasons were all "inadmissible and irrelevant to the sexual assault, according to dozens of criminal lawyers."

'It's exhausting. It's just devastating."- Jade Naraine

The Crown's office told CBC Toronto in a statement it is not aware of having been served with an application for judicial review. It added the matter was "thoroughly reviewed by senior Crown counsel, and based on all relevant and available evidence, it was determined that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction."

'It doesn't feel like the system is made to support survivors'

The manager of the Consent Comes First office at Ryerson University says survivors of sexual assault often struggle to get the support they need. 

"It's so disappointing to hear about the pressures on a survivor," said Farrah Khan. "People sometimes don't have the time, money or mental space."

Khan says there's still a lot of work to do when it comes to supporting survivors who come forward. "We are not there yet," she said. "At this time, it doesn't feel like the system is made to support survivors."

'It's exhausting'

Meanwhile, Naraine says she's been trying to get back in the studio to record a new album while keeping her work on the sex assault case going with the backing of her producer, who she says has been her biggest supporter.

"I admire what she's doing," said Mike Dmitrovic, who runs Voodoo Records in Toronto. "She's fighting for justice. A girl is actually putting her reputation ... in danger."

Naraine admits it's been a lot of work, and when asked why she hasn't given up, she fights back tears.

"It's exhausting, it's just devastating," she said. "But I really want to make a change in the system for girls who are victimized by sex assault. There's so many girls that are not getting justice if I didn't get justice, either."

About the Author

Lisa Xing is a journalist by trade and a historian by degree. She's also a creative writer, photographer and traveller, dabbling in camping, canoeing and crafting. Email Lisa.Xing@cbc.ca.