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Two more women file suits alleging sexual assault by Newfoundland police officer

May 2, 2024  By Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press


May 2, 2024, St. John’s, Nfld. – Two more women have filed lawsuits alleging they were sexually assaulted by an on-duty member of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary who offered them rides home from a night of drinking.

Lawyer Lynn Moore filed the statements of claim with the province’s Supreme Court in late March on behalf of the two women, bringing the total number of civil cases dealing with alleged sexual misconduct by RNC members to four. Ten women, including one member of the force, are behind the lawsuits, and their names are protected by a publication ban.

“They want sexual violence to be reduced,” Moore said in an interview. “They also want an acknowledgment that they were hurt, and that it was wrong. These are the things that most survivors want, they want to be told, ‘It’s not your fault, this was wrong, and we’re sorry.’”

No criminal charges have been laid in relation to the allegations. The women have chosen to file civil cases rather than press criminal charges because they have little faith in the criminal justice system, Moore said.

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The latest lawsuits filed on March 28 and amended April 29 allege the women were visibly intoxicated when Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Sgt. Robert Baldwin, who has since retired, offered to drive them home in his marked police car in St. John’s, N.L.

Their claims in the lawsuit have not been tested in court and messages left by The Canadian Press for Baldwin were not returned.

Moore filed two other civil lawsuits in 2022 in which eight women, including an RNC officer, allege they were sexually assaulted or violated by members of the force. Three of those women, including the officer, alleged Baldwin was their assailant.

A lawyer representing Baldwin in relation to those claims said she had not been retained by him in the latest cases, but in response to the previous lawsuits he categorically denied all the allegations.

According to one statement of claim filed in March, Baldwin drove the plaintiff to a remote area in 2012 and forced her to perform oral sex and have intercourse with him.

He got her phone number and called her a week later, when she was out drinking and socializing at a bar in the St. John’s area, the document says. It alleges he offered her a ride home and once again drove her to a secluded area and forced her to have sex with him.

In the second statement of claim, a woman says she was intoxicated when Baldwin drove her home in 2014 and then followed her in the front door, “under the guise of helping her.” He entered her house and sexually assaulted her, the document alleges, adding: “No consent was obtained and the plaintiff was not capable of consent.”

The suit alleges Baldwin injured the woman; she was in “severe pain” and bleeding heavily the next day, it says.

He got her phone number during the incident and contacted her “a short time later,” the statement of claim says, adding: “She did not entertain this proposition.”

The provincial government is listed as the sole defendant in both lawsuits, as the body responsible for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. The RNC shares policing duties in the province with the RCMP.

The lawsuits allege the RNC knew Baldwin was frequently in downtown St. John’s, outside the area he was assigned to, and the force did nothing to investigate, discipline or control him.

The government knew, or should have known, that members of the force “were seeking out women for sexual purposes while on duty and took no steps to prevent this practice,” both lawsuits allege. “Further, having knowledge of the sexual misconduct by his officers, the defendant had a duty to warn the public of this danger and failed to do so.”

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the provincial Justice Department said in emails Wednesday that they could not comment on a case before the courts.

“All complaints of officer misconduct and criminal allegations are taken very seriously,” RNC Const. James Cadigan said. “The RNC holds its police officers to the highest standard.”

The lawsuits say the alleged assaults have had significant impacts on the women’s mental and physical health. They have had difficulties building and maintaining relationships, and they are plagued by persistent memories and thoughts about what happened to them, it is alleged. One has struggled with substance abuse.

Moore said the 2021 sexual assault conviction of RNC officer Carl Douglas Snelgrove motivated some of the women behind the current four lawsuits to come forward. Snelgrove’s case wound through the court system for about seven years, and the woman he raped while on duty in 2014 testified at three separate trials, recounting the painful details of that night while the police officer’s defence team tried to discredit her.

The woman became known across the province as Jane Doe, and Moore said some of her clients have felt like they left her to bear the brunt of coming forward on her own — a feeling Moore said is entirely unwarranted.

“A sense of justice” is what drives them now, Moore said.


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