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Canada  

New trial in cop assault

A new trial has been ordered in the high-profile case of a Newfoundland police officer acquitted of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman he drove home from a bar while on duty.

A St. John's jury found Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary not guilty in February 2017, a verdict that sparked immediate anger on social media and protests outside the courthouse.

The case had turned on the issue of consent: There was no dispute the two had sex.

The Crown had argued the 10-year RNC veteran took advantage of the vulnerable woman, saying she was in no position to consent because of her level of intoxication. But the defence argued the jury clearly had "at least a reasonable doubt about whether or not she consented or he believed she consented."

In a split decision, the province's appeal court says the trial judge made legal errors in not instructing the jury on Criminal Code provisions around consent involving people in positions of authority.

"I am satisfied that the relationship of an on-duty police officer to a member of the public is traditionally one of trust or authority. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, that relationship is presumed and does not require evidence," Justice Gale Welsh wrote in the ruling.

Welsh's ruling was concurred with by another member of the three-judge panel, Justice Lois Hoegg. But the third member of the panel, Justice Charles White, dissented.

The case stems from events on Dec. 21, 2014, when the 23-year-old complainant headed home at 2:30 a.m. after deciding she was too drunk to stay at a St. John's bar. She went to find a cab, but ended getting a ride from Snelgrove; it was unclear whether she asked or he offered.

Snelgrove admitted he did not tell the dispatcher he had a female in his cruiser, as required by RNC policy, or that he would be outside his assigned area of responsibility.

The woman lost her keys, so he helped her enter through an unlocked window, and then went to her door. He said she had complimented his looks and initiated sex, and was not drunk.

She said she was "too drunk to stand up" and simply didn't remember whether she'd consented. "I was drunk so I don’t know how I would have acted. I don’t – I can’t say for sure what I did or didn’t do," she said at trial.

She said she had simply wanted to go to home to sleep, and figured it would be safer with police than a cabbie. She testified she'd had no intention to have sex with him.

A friend who spoke to her by phone minutes before they had sex testified that her speech was slurred and she "was intoxicated for sure ... definitely not herself."

The 11-member jury came to a not guilty verdict in its second day of deliberations. Snelgrove broke down in tears, with defence lawyer Randy Piercey telling reporters it had been "a very difficult time for Doug and his wife and his family."



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