Blue Line

Carrie Low tells review board about her trauma from N.S. police handling of rape case

July 10, 2023  By The Canadian Press

July 10, 2023, Halifax, N.S. – A Halifax woman who says her 2018 rape case was mishandled told a police review board on Monday she became suicidal due to her feeling that officers mistrusted her.

Carrie Low first brought forward her complaint against the Halifax Regional Police and Const. Bojan Novakovic – the first officer to interview her – about a year after she reported being raped by at least two men in a trailer in East Preston, N.S.

Her testimony Monday before the Nova Scotia Police Review Board included accounts of how her clothing wasn’t promptly collected and analyzed for DNA, and how no officer went to the scene to retrieve and secure evidence after the alleged rape.

Low said she went through three interviews by criminal investigators with an integrated RCMP-Halifax police sexual assault unit and began to feel officers didn’t believe her account of what happened.

“It was very difficult,” she testified, wiping away tears. “By the third interview I was realizing the police probably didn’t believe me and it started affecting my mental health, and I attempted suicide because of this.”

Low told the three-person review board panel that on the night of May 18, 2018, she was driven to a trailer in East Preston, N.S., where she was raped as she drifted in and out of consciousness.

She recalled being interviewed by Novakovic at the hospital the next day, after nurses trained in collecting rape-test samples asked if Low would talk to the constable. She said Novakovic gave her a plastic evidence bag for her clothing and told her a police officer would contact her and arrange to collect it.

However, Low said when she called Novakovic the next day he told her that because it was a long weekend, nobody was available to pick up the evidence bag. She said she also gave the constable the address of the trailer where she was allegedly raped, expecting someone would be sent to the scene.

In cross-examination, Novakovic’s lawyer, Brian Bailey, told Low it wasn’t his client’s direct responsibility, as a patrol officer who did an initial interview, to contact the RCMP-Halifax police sexual assault unit.

“I suggest to you that had nothing to do with my officer,” he said.

Low told the review board that months later, a police supervisor told her that a duty officer should have called the sexual assault team as soon as she went to the hospital.

She also said Novakovic picked up the evidence bag from her 10 days later, on May 29, 2018, after she complained to a supervisor of the sexual assault investigation team about her treatment.

Low said she learned in April 2019 from a police supervisor that analyses hadn’t been done on her rape kit and her clothing, and that a blood test for date-rape drugs hadn’t been sent to a lab. In addition, she was told by investigators in the case that nobody had secured the scene.

The 47-year-old Halifax resident said that by the fall of 2018, she had become increasingly distressed. “I was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder because at this point my hair was falling out,” she said.

Low’s police complaint, originally launched May 13, 2019, was delayed after the police complaints commission said she hadn’t met a six-month deadline to file, a decision overturned by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

The complaint process was further delayed by the criminal case against Alexander Thomas, who was murdered before he could stand trial for her assault, and by a trial against Brent Alexander Julien, who was acquitted in May.

Novakovic has received a disciplinary penalty of eight hours of lost wages, according to the internal report by a police superintendent. That penalty was appealed by Low and her lawyers, bringing it before the Nova Scotia Police Review Board.

In addition, Low has alleged there was a wider “pattern of conduct amounting to negligence,” by the police force. Her lawyer, Jason Cooke, said after Monday’s hearing that the legal team is still considering what appropriate disciplinary sanctions should be sought against Novakovic.

Cooke said that in the case of the Halifax police force, Low and her legal team will be seeking recommendations for reforms to how the integrated sexual assault unit functions.

During the hearing, the review board chair, Jean McKenna, said that she still needed to review prior legal decisions to decide if the board could hear a general complaint against the Halifax police force, rather than against individual officers.

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