Blue Line

Ex Mountie says he was told to drop sexual assault case because N.S. woman was lying

July 13, 2023  By The Canadian Press

July 13, 2023, Dartmouth, N.S. – A former RCMP officer who investigated an alleged sexual assault says he was ordered to drop the case because his superiors thought the woman involved was lying.

Jerell Smith told the Nova Scotia Police Review Board that he was assigned to Carrie Low’s sexual assault case but was immediately ordered to close the file.

Low’s complaint filed with the review board alleges police officers mishandled the investigation of her case after she reported being driven to a house in the Halifax area and raped by at least two men on May 18, 2018.

“I was told to close the file, to not proceed with the investigation,” Smith testified, “which threw me for a loop because I’m not a supervisor, I’m not able to close files.”

Smith, the initial investigator assigned to the case, was a member of a specialized sexual assault unit composed of RCMP and Halifax police officers. He said there was “minimal information” in Low’s file when he received it on May 22, four days after her alleged sexual assault.

Smith said Halifax Regional Police Staff Sgt. Don Stienburg told him that Low, during an interaction with the police the day after the alleged sexual assault occurred, had admitted to lying about what happened.

But Smith said that after analyzing her file, he determined that the alleged false rape claim had been made by Low’s friend. That friend, he said, later apologized for muddying the waters of Low’s investigation.

Smith said he was told that police obtained video of Low in public at the time she claimed to have been kidnapped, but Smith said he determined the woman in the video was not Low.

He said that during a phone call with Low, she said her clothing the night she was allegedly raped had not been collected by police, and that she had not been brought in for a statement.

Smith told the review panel he decided to continue investigating the case despite his superiors’ orders to drop it because he was “trying to figure out what was going on.”

As a consequence of his actions in the case, he said he fears for his safety and has been “criminally harassed” by members of the province’s police community. Smith told review board chair Jean McKenna that he gave a statement to police on Wednesday night regarding the alleged harassment.

He did not directly answer, however, when McKenna asked him whether he had been physically threatened.

“I’m fearful to be here today to testify,” he said. “I am fearful of this board, fearful of people being involved in this situation.”

Smith did not have a lawyer present on Thursday at the hearing. His family, who were there, urged him to leave. As well, lawyers for Low and for Halifax Regional Police officer Bojan Novakovic, who is the subject of her complaint, said Smith’s testimony could be delayed until Monday in order for him to secure legal representation.

But Smith refused. He said he wanted to “get this done and move on with my life.”

An internal RCMP review found that Smith was negligent in failing to secure the scene of the alleged assault and in delaying tests on Low’s blood sample, rape kit and clothing. The review concluded that Smith was in need of “operational guidance,” but the officer has since taken an extended leave of absence and has not returned to policing.

Meanwhile, Novakovic, the first officer to interview Low after the alleged sexual assault, has been docked eight hours pay for his handling of Low’s case. In response, Low appealed that penalty to the review board, and she has also requested that the board make recommendations to improve the Halifax police force’s response to sexual assault survivors. Low’s lawyer has said the legal team was considering what appropriate disciplinary sanctions should be sought against Novakovic.

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