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Supreme Court rejects sexual assault appeal from Newfoundland police officer

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove arrives at the provincial Supreme Court building in St. John's on Saturday, May 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sarah Smellie Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove arrives at the provincial Supreme Court building in St. John's on Saturday, May 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sarah Smellie
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A Newfoundland police officer convicted of sexual assault in a 2014 case will head back to prison after the country’s top court dismissed his latest appeal.

The Supreme Court of Canada announced Thursday morning it had dismissed Douglas Snelgrove’s application, which sought permission to appeal his conviction to the country’s highest justices. It brings to an end a decade of legal proceedings between the disgraced police officer, prosecutors, and a young woman only known in Newfoundland and Labrador as Jane Doe.

Snelgrove was on duty and in police uniform — parked in front of a courthouse in downtown St. John’s — in 2014, when a woman approached him looking for a ride home, according to findings at Newfoundland and Labrador’s Supreme Court.

According to court documents, Snelgrove drove the woman to her house — but didn’t let his dispatch know where he was going, or that he was travelling alone with a woman. Snelgrove helped the woman enter her apartment through a basement window, according to the complaint.

The complainant in the case testified that Snelgrove did not immediately leave the property, and sexually assaulted her when she was too drunk to consent to sex. A jury at the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court convicted him in 2021.

Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove, centre, of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is shown in court in St. John's on Friday Nov. 12, 2021. The Newfoundland police officer who sexually assaulted a woman in her home while he was on duty in 2014 has been sentenced to four years in prison. THE CANAIDAN PRESS/Sarah Smellie

Jane Doe testified that she sought a police officer for help because she had feared being assaulted by a taxi driver.

The case went to trial three times. Snelgrove was first acquitted, then the case was overturned on appeal. A second trial ended in a mistrial. Snelgrove was finally convicted in 2021.

The Supreme Court of Canada did not release a reason for the dismissal of his appeal, which is standard for that type of decision. He had appealed to the top court complaining that he was excluded from some important conversations between the judge in his trial and his lawyers.

The Constable has been suspended without pay from the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary since 2015. With his criminal appeal exhausted, a complaint against Snelgrove will now proceed at the police force’s public complaints tribunal.

“Under the RNC Act, the Chief of Police must preside over the RNC public complaint proceedings related to the subject matter of the criminal charge,” a spokesperson for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary wrote in a statement.

“To protect the integrity of the public complaint proceedings the Chief cannot comment on this case.”

The complainant in the case said she was 21 years old at the time of the assault. Her name and other details about the woman are covered under a court-ordered publication ban.

As the case was being tried in Newfoundland and Labrador, regular protests and demonstrations were held in St. John’s expressing support for the woman — and dismay at a court decision that initially acquitted the officer.

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