Judge criticizes Yellowknife RCMP for jailing intoxicated sex assault victim
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, August 27, 2018 1:45PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 27, 2018 4:46PM EDT
YELLOWKNIFE -- A judge has criticized the Yellowknife RCMP for taking an intoxicated sexual assault victim to jail instead of to hospital.
In a decision released earlier this month, Justice Garth Malakoe said there are no circumstances that would justify confining the woman to police cells overnight in May 2017.
"I am unable to imagine circumstances which would justify this type of treatment of a victim of sexual assault," he wrote. "It appears the victim was not treated with the dignity and compassion that she or any victim of a sexual assault deserves."
Malakoe said the woman should have been taken to hospital for an examination.
Police said in a statement quoted in the judgment that the highly intoxicated woman was taken to the cells for her safety.
Malakoe's observation was made in a verdict rendered on Wade Kapakatoak, who pleaded guilty to sexual assault. Kapakatoak was captured on surveillance cameras committing the assault at night behind a movie theatre. It was witnessed by the theatre's owner.
Police said the victim was so drunk she was passing in and out of consciousness. She had difficulty talking and dressing herself.
The arresting officer told court he arrested the victim for public drunkenness and took her to jail "for her safety."
"The treatment by the police of the victim was egregious," wrote Malakoe. "This treatment is an issue that should be examined and the police should have to explain."
RCMP are reviewing Malakoe's remarks, said spokeswoman Marie York-Condon.
"Our review is looking at how we applied our policy and training, what was known by responding officers, police authorities, medical assessment, etc," she said in an email. "We will also be looking at our interactions with the victim during and after, and any support services offered.
"A poor experience with police investigators can bring more trauma to victims and discourage others from reporting these crimes."
Bree Denning of Yellowknife Women's Society said things have changed.
"The RCMP did frequently take people who were intoxicated to cells," she said. "Very few people desire to go to cells, so there's already that adversarial relationship set up."
Since the woman's arrest, Yellowknife has funded an outreach program to get drunk or vulnerable men and women off the street and to a safe place, either a home or a shelter.
"It's based around the strain that calls about people who were intoxicated in the downtown core were putting on emergency services," Denning said. "RCMP were seeing thousands of nights in cells a year."
She said she's not aware of that happening since the sobering centre was put in place.
"I think there's been a lot of progress."
Kapakatoak is awaiting sentencing.