MLA demands answers in alleged child sexual assault case
MLA Rob Anderson is demanding an independent investigation into how a sexual assault case involving a young Airdrie girl was abruptly thrown out of court in October with the accused going free. The case, in which a now 27-year-old Airdrie resident alleges she was sexually abused for eight years, starting when she was nine years old, was first brought to light when the family approached Anderson.
“The victim and the victim’s family approached me… and said they were just devastated that the court case had been stayed,” said Anderson, who raised the issue in the Legislature, Nov. 1.
“I will do whatever it takes to get an answer for them,” he said. “The ball has been dropped.”
The victim, who can’t be named, said having the court case thrown out was devastating.
“I want the laws changed,” she said. “Any sort of crime against a child shouldn’t be allowed to be thrown out. There shouldn’t be an expiry date on a court case.”
In 2009, a man, whose name is protected by a court-ordered publication ban, was charged with sexual assault in connection with the alleged abuse, but a judge threw the case out last month because it took too long to get to trial, according to the mother of the victim, who can’t be named.
She said she first learned of the alleged attacks in 2008, when her daughter was 23.
“She was afraid to tell me… ,” said the mother, who added the man allegedly threatened her daughter for many years to keep her quiet.
The man was arrested and appeared in court in September 2009 on several charges including sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and sexual exploitation, all dating back over eight years to when the alleged victim was between nine and 17 years old. A restraining order was placed on the man to keep him from the alleged victim.
About 18 months after the charges were laid, the man pled not guilty, according to the mother.
The preliminary hearing was set for June, 2011, but the victim said the Crown prosecutor did not speak to her until about six weeks before the hearing was scheduled. New evidence discovered in that interview put the hearing off until December, she said.
According to the mother, a trial was set for this month but in August she was told by the prosecutor there was a “good chance” the case would be thrown out.
On Oct. 3, the victim and her family learned the case was being dismissed because of the length of the proceedings. The victim said the family was told the delays were due to a shortage of Crown prosecutors and resources.
Recent news reports say, a Justice Department official, who announced an upcoming investigation into the case, quickly denied that was the reason.
The investigation will take at least two months.
In a press release, Anderson said comments made in the media from the Alberta Justice department appear to be pre-judging internal the investigation’s results.
“We’re pleased the government has agreed to investigate the matter but it looks as though their mind is already made up,” Anderson said.
“This victim and her family were already denied their day in court. At the very least, they deserve a fair and unbiased investigation as to why, and the Alberta public is entitled to a full report.”
The mother said the the fact the case has been thrown out was devastating.
“When (my daughter) found out, she burst into tears,” she said. “She has been abused by the court system.”
Anderson said the dismissal of the case is inexcusable.
“What kind of a joke of a judicial system lets someone who has allegedly been raped for eight years not have her day in court,” said Anderson.
“How can the people and citizens of Airdrie feel safe when this type of collapse in justice occurs?”
The mother said she and her daughter are afraid of the accused.
“It makes me ill to think about what he did,” she said, adding she is concerned about the safety of other young girls in the community.
The mother said the media attention has given them a chance to speak out about the situation.
“People don’t come forward and it’s sad because there are so many (pedophiles) walking around,” she said. “We want people to realize that this can happen and you have to be on your Crown prosecutor.”
The victim said she hopes the investigation will yield results.
“I am hoping… they are going to fix the situation,” she said.
“I don’t want what is happening to me to scare other people from coming forward.”
She added although it was difficult she hopes stepping forward will help someone else.
“That is my goal,” she said. “The only way that it will stop is to tell.”