Nunavut judge to give verdict Aug. 23 in RCMP sexual assault case
Crown makes pitch for lesser included charge of assault
Crown prosecutor Eric Marcoux, in a submission made Aug. 22, invited Justice Bonnie Tulloch to look at the lesser included charge of common assault when she ponders her verdict in the case of a Nunavut RCMP constable who stood trial this week in Iqaluit on allegations he sexually assaulted a prisoner.
Cst. Justin Dickens, 32, faces one count of sexual assault in connection with an incident alleged to have occurred March 20, 2010 inside a cell at the Baker Lake RCMP detachment.
The complainant is a woman who Dickens arrested and searched after someone complained to police that day about an intoxicated person causing a disturbance outside the Northern store in Baker Lake.
Lawyers finished taking evidence from witnesses Aug. 21. Marcoux and defence lawyer Ursula Goeres gave Tulloch their final submissions Aug. 22.
Marcoux told Tulloch that, in his opinion, Dickens was “very much on the defensive” Aug. 21 when Marcoux cross-examined the police officer and “appeared to be hiding something.”
And though Dickens, at the time of the woman’s arrest, put four pages of notes into his notebook about the incident, he didn’t mention it in a summary report to his superior, Cpl Kent MacEachern.
And Marcoux pointed to evidence given by a Baker Lake woman who worked as a guard at the Baker Lake RCMP detachment.
“It’s quite unusual to have an independent eyewitness to a sexual assault,” Marcoux said.
Dickens had called the guard to help him with the search and had left the front door of the detachment open for her.
The guard had earlier told court that she saw Dickens put his hand down the front of his prisoner’s pants during a search.
It was during that search that the woman alleges Dickens sexually assaulted her, by touching her breasts and vaginal area over her clothes, and not by slipping his hand into her pants.
But Marcoux invited Tulloch to discount the discrepancies between the story told by the prisoner and the story told by the guard, saying the complainant was “relying on her memory of an event she wanted to forget.”
Marcoux also alleged that Dickens may have used excessive force after he arrested the woman that day in front of the Northern store in Baker Lake.
Dickens had told court he used an arm-bar takedown to get the woman into a position where he could search her, after she had entered a cell at the police station.
So even if Tulloch finds Dickens not guilty on the sexual assault charge, she may still find him guilty on an assault charge, under section 265.1 (a) of the Criminal Code, Marcoux said.
In Dicken’s defence, Goeres said the Criminal Code, in section 25, allows peace officers, including police, to use at least some force if they have reasonable grounds for arresting and searching someone.
And she said Marcoux did not present enough evidence, including expert evidence, to back up the idea that Dickens used excessive force.
She pointed out that RCMP members are trained to use the arm-bar technique and that it doesn’t amount to the kind of excessive force that could justify an assault conviction.
At the same time, she said Dickens had reasonable grounds to arrest the woman earlier that day.
“It’s not appropriate for the court to consider the included offence,” Goeres said.
As for the sexual assault allegation, Goeres said the Crown has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and she asked Tulloch to dismiss the charge.
She said Dickens, who has an unblemished record of service with the RCMP, appeared to be honest and truthful when he gave evidence in his defence.
“At no time did he contradict himself, or was evasive,” Goeres said.
Goeres also pointed out that it was Dickens who asked the female guard to come to the police station — which means it’s highly unlikely that Dickens ever intended to sexually assault his prisoner.
“It is inconceivable that Cst. Dickens would assault a prisoner at exactly the same time that he was expecting a visitor,” the defence lawyer said.
Goeres pointed to the conflicting stories told by the prisoner and the guard, saying this demonstrates there isn’t enough reliable evidence to justify a sexual assault conviction.
She also said it was the guard, and not the prisoner, who came forward to make a sexual assault complaint — two years after the incident, in 2012, after Dickens had transferred to Whale Cove.
“Why did everyone wait two years?” Goeres said.
There were no video surveillance cameras inside the cell at the time the incident is alleged to have occurred.
Tulloch said she needs time to review her notes before she decides on a verdict and reserved her judgment until Aug. 23 at 3:00 p.m.
The name of the complainant may not be published or broadcast.