Nunavut RCMP member goes to trial on police-cell sexual assault charge
Charge not laid until 2012, when witness came forward
The trial of an RCMP officer accused of sexually assaulting a woman at the police detachment in Baker Lake began at the Nunavut Court of Justice in Iqaluit Aug. 20.
Cst. Justin Dickens is charged with one count of sexual assault in relation to an incident alleged to have occurred inside an RCMP cell in Baker Lake on Mar. 20, 2010.
The charge, however, was not laid until April 2012, after a witness came forward.
Crown prosecutor Eric Marcoux called the complainant to give evidence at the beginning of the judge-alone trial, held before Justice Bonnie Tulloch.
The woman told court that Dickens arrested her in front of the Northern store in Baker Lake on the afternoon of March 20, 2010 for being intoxicated in public.
She claims to have only had two drinks of vodka and water — about a quarter of the drink being vodka, the rest water.
It had only been two hours since she had been released from the drunk tank after spending the night there. She had been picked up the night before for public intoxication and she described herself as being “blackout drunk.”
After what she describes as a “rough” arrest by Dickens in the afternoon, he took her to the Baker Lake detachment by himself.
From the beginning, the woman said she felt “unsafe” because only one officer arrested her.
The woman said she had been in the drunk tank many times before, and that there were always two officers or another guard on duty.
No other people were in the RCMP detachment when Dickens and his prisoner entered the building.
The woman told the court Dickens flung her to the ground, pinned her hands with his one hand and stretched her arms above her head.
She told the court Dickens groped her vagina and buttocks with his free hand over her clothes, with her legs tight together, she said.
She said it lasted five to 10 seconds, “but it felt so long.”
The woman also said that she didn’t struggle because Dickens — over 6 foot 4 inches tall and built like a football player — is bigger than her.
“As long as I kept breathing he could rape me,” she told the court, saying that she just wanted to get out of the situation alive.
A month afterwards, the woman left Baker Lake.
In cross-examining her, the defence lawyer, Ursula Goeres, laid out a long list of criminal convictions registered against the woman, including several assaults and one count of possession of marijuana — while being taken to the drunk tank in Iqaluit in 2010, a small bag of weed dropped from her bra.
Geores also suggested that it’s not unusual to be searched in that area by cops.
The woman responded, “Not like that,” referring to the night in question.
Only one other witness was in the detachment at the time.
That witness said when she entered the detachment building she heard strange noises from the cell.
The witness went over to investigate and said Dickens had his right hand down the complainant’s pants, with her button and zipper undone. Dickens also had a “dark” and “angry” expression on his face, the witness said.
As soon as Dickens saw the witness watching, he stopped, the witness said.
The witness said that at the time, she had been too scared to come forward to complain against Dickens.
Another witness said that on the same day, the complainant whispered in her ear about Dickens touching her.
It wasn’t until two years later that the first witness came forward to report what she had seen.
That prompted a preliminary investigation by the Northwest Territories “G” division of the RCMP.
Former Chief Supt. Steve McVarnock, the commander of “V” division in Nunavut, saw enough evidence from that investigation to hand the matter over to the Ottawa Police Service.
Dickens, who is released on an undertaking, was charged with one count of sexual assault in Whale Cove April 28. He has since been suspended from the RCMP with pay.
When the complainant was asked why she didn’t come forward herself, she said, “He’s police, I’m nothing.”
Dickens wore a dark suit with a grey tie and showed no emotion throughout the proceedings, other than whispering in his lawyer’s ear once in a while.
The complainant, however, addressed Dickens directly from the witness box.
“I can’t believe you pleaded not guilty. It’s not right what you did,” she said while crying.
The trial continues Aug. 21. The complainant’s name may not be published or broadcast.