Blue Line

Review board says Halifax police procedures not at fault in 2018 rape case handling

March 15, 2024  By Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

Mar. 15, 2024, Halifax, N.S. – The Nova Scotia Police Review Board has concluded the conduct of Halifax officers in a controversial 2018 sexual assault case doesn’t warrant any broad changes in how the police force operates.

Carrie Low had brought a complaint against Const. Bojan Novakovic and the Halifax police for their handling of her May 19, 2018, sexual assault by at least two men in a suburb of the city.

Low’s complaints about the police response to her case included that her clothing wasn’t promptly collected and analyzed for DNA and that police did not send anyone quickly to the scene of her assault to retrieve and secure evidence.

However, the three members of the review board concluded in the March 11 decision: “We find nothing in the conduct of (the) Halifax Regional Police as a whole warrants intervention by the board.”


Novakovic was originally docked eight hours pay for not recording in a police database that Low’s clothing hadn’t been picked up and properly stored. The clothing remained at Low’s home until 10 days after her report of the rape, despite Low telling investigators that nobody had come to pick up the evidence.

The board’s decision says it may rule at a later date about whether Novakovic’s sanction was sufficient and invited the parties to send in submissions over the next two weeks. Novakovic hasn’t appealed the sanction.

Low’s clothing was eventually analyzed and the DNA on it was used to match to a suspect who was charged with sexual assault but died before his trial. A second suspect was charged and acquitted of sexual assault, after a judge concluded the accused couldn’t be clearly identified as one of the rapists.

The review board also heard testimony from Low that the day after she reported her rape, a Sunday, she telephoned Novakovic to inform him of the location of the crime in East Preston.

However, the matter wasn’t directly reported to the sergeant on duty who could have ordered follow-up, nor did that officer act on the electronic report. Similarly, a quality assurance sergeant on duty didn’t become involved with the file, the board wrote.

The board concluded that the joint sexual assault team became involved “within a reasonable time” after the long weekend when the event occurred.

In an interview Thursday, Low said she strongly disagreed with the decision, saying it shows “nobody wants to hold the policing system accountable.”

She gave the example of the failure of supervising officers to become involved with her sexual assault investigation on the weekend it occurred. “Where is the quality assurance on how files are handled?” she asked.

Low also objected to language in the decision she described as “victim shaming” or simply inaccurate. For example, she questioned why the decision raised that she could have brought the clothing to her first interview with an officer.

“I was never asked that question in the whole hearing …. And it’s putting onus on a victim to bring evidence,” she said.

Low also took issue with a comment in the decision that she may have had the impression that the television crime show CSI “represents something like the real-world time frame of an investigation.” She said that’s not true.

The three board members say in their decision that “the primary problem that she (Low) faced was what she saw as insufficient communication, and the collection and processing of physical evidence.”

They placed the responsibility for this largely upon Const. Jarrell Smith of the RCMP, who was initially the lead investigator on the case as part of a joint RCMP-Halifax police sexual assault investigation unit.

But the board says Smith’s conduct was outside of its jurisdiction and “has apparently been dealt with by her (Low’s) complaint through the RCMP discipline process.”

The decision says Smith was the officer responsible for delays in having evidence processed at a police lab due to errors in documents he submitted, but this was the fault of one officer rather than the joint unit.

Regarding the failure to attend the scene, the board said that “if indeed this was an error, it was an error by Cst. Smith, and as well, it was a matter of discretion.”

The decision also concluded that when Novakovic went to the hospital to meet with Low, he followed procedures and dealt with her “with sensitivity, and developed something of a rapport with her.”

Low said in an interview she is consulting with her lawyers on whether to make further submissions and whether to appeal.

“I went into this process with an expectation of not getting exactly what I would want out of it, but I didn’t expect such a harmful document,” she said.

A spokesman for the Halifax police said the force is declining comment because the process isn’t complete.

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