Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Iqaluit April 16, 2014 - 6:29 am

Crown stays sex charges after Nunavut Court Services pulls funding for witnesses

Young witnesses leave Iqaluit following "incident" at hotel

DAVID MURPHY

A Clyde River man is effectively off the hook on four sex charges involving minors after two key witnesses lost their accommodation allowance from Nunavut Court Services and left Iqaluit before they could give evidence

Crown prosecutor Doug Garson said April 15 that the two complainants, the main witnesses in the case, flew home prior to testifying, following an “incident” at the Iqaluit hotel where they were staying.

Garson said they lost their accommodation allowance from Court Services, the unit that provides logistical and administrative support to the Nunavut Court of Justice.

With the main witnesses not available to testify, and other reasons, Garson entered a stay of proceedings on the charges.

A stay means that unless new evidence comes to light within one year, the charges are effectively dropped.

Benjamin Hainnu, 32, was supposed to face trial April 14 on two counts of invitation to sexual touching involving a person under the age of 16, one count of sexual interference with a person under the age of 16, and one count of sexual assault.

They arise from incidents alleged to have occurred between Dec. 15, 2009 and Jan. 15, 2010 in Clyde River, involving two girls under the age of 16.

Each of those charges comes with a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment.

But no judge was available to hear the case April 14, so the trial was adjourned to the morning of April 15.

But an incident occurred April 14 in the Iqaluit hotel where the two witnesses were staying.

In court, Garson did not describe the incident. He said the complainants, the main witnesses, were “indisposed” on the morning of April 15.

The trial adjourned to the afternoon, but the girls, each of them now over the age of 18, didn’t show up.

Garson told Justice Sue Cooper that after the incident at the hotel, and with no explanation, Court Services refused to continue paying the complainants’ expenses.

“Court services won’t be able to provide accommodation for them this week,” Garson said. As a result, the witnesses had to make quick travel arrangements to get home April 15.

Because the case is more than four years old, and because it has been adjourned a number of times, some times due to bad weather, Garson said the matter needed to be concluded, so he stayed the four charges against Hainnu.

Garson said there might be “perfectly legitimate reasons” why Court Services refused to extend coverage of the cost of accommodation.

But to understand the situation fully, he said he has asked for a written explanation from the director of Court Services.

Garson also told Nunatsiaq News that in all his experience, he’s never dealt with a situation when Court Services has pulled funding for a complainant or witness.

Three other men faced charges April 15 related to incidents involving the same two complainants.

The former Baffin Central MLA Tommy Enuaraq, 61, who served in the Northwest Territories legislature between 1995 and 1999, faces two charges of invitation to sexual touching involving a person under the age of 16.

Enuaraq was put under the terms of a peace bond. Under the 12-month peace bond, Enuaraq must have no contact with the complainants, must not be in the presence of a child under the age of 16 who is not a relative, and must keep the peace.

Garson said he asked for the peace bond because Enuaraq is frail, suffers from physical disabilities and struggles with day-to-day tasks.

As for two other accused men from Clyde River, Steven Aipeelee pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault and Billy Kuniliusee pleaded guilty to one count of invitation to sexual touching involving a person under the age of 16.

A sentencing hearing for those two will start April 16.

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