Women file suit alleging they were sexually assaulted by Newfoundland police officers
October 5, 2022 By The Canadian Press
Oct. 4, 2022, St. John’s. Nfld. – Seven women have filed a lawsuit alleging they were sexually assaulted by “various” on-duty officers with Newfoundland and Labrador’s provincial police force between 2001 and 2017.
The women allege officers with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary offered them rides home at night – mostly from busy, bar-lined George Street in downtown St. John’s – and then assaulted them.
Their statement of claim filed Sept. 9 in the province’s Supreme Court names the government of Newfoundland and Labrador – which is responsible for the force – as the sole defendant in the case. It alleges the government “knew or ought to have known” that officers were targeting women in the St. John’s area, and that the government is vicariously liable for the assaults.
“Further, having knowledge of the sexual misconduct … the (government) had a duty to warn the public of this danger and failed to do so,” the statement of claim says.
In one instance, a woman alleges she was driven to a remote area and forced to perform oral sex on an unnamed Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer in 2001 after he’d offered her a ride home. She initially resisted but he “intimated” that he would leave her stranded if she refused his advances, the statement of claim says.
Another woman alleges in the document that she was raped by an unnamed officer in her house in 2014 after he gave her a ride home from a night of drinking, according to the document.
None of the allegations have been proven in court. The women’s names are protected by a publication ban, and their lawyer said Tuesday they are not pursuing criminal charges.
“The women involved in this case have seen what happens in the criminal justice system and they don’t like it,” the lawyer, Lynn Moore, said in an interview. “It’s a really traumatizing process.”
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary shares policing duties in the province with the RCMP. The force has been rocked by sexual misconduct allegations that began after a woman came forward in 2015 alleging Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove sexually assaulted her in her home after driving her home from downtown St. John’s. The case went to trial three times following a successful appeal and a mistrial, and Snelgrove was convicted last year. He is appealing that conviction.
Only one officer is identified in the lawsuit: retired Royal Newfoundland Constabulary sergeant Robert Baldwin is named by two plaintiffs. One woman alleges Baldwin kissed and touched her without her consent in 2017, after offering her a ride home in his marked police car. The other alleges he entered her home and sexually assaulted her after offering her a ride home in 2015.
Baldwin denies the claims.
“We can categorically deny the allegations that have been made against him, which have not yet been proven,” Glenda Best, Baldwin’s lawyer, said in an emailed statement Monday evening. He is also named in a suit filed in January alleging he raped a fellow officer in 2014, after offering her a ride home. Baldwin denies those claims as well, according to court documents.
Moore said it is impossible to say exactly how many officers were involved in the alleged assaults. “The women involved, by and large, did not know the police officers and were only able to provide a description,” she said, adding that based on those descriptions, she believes “several” officers were involved.
Moore said she expects more women will come forward with allegations, but she notes that class could be a barrier. So far, she said, she has only been approached with allegations from middle-class women.
“It seems to me that if someone is looking to exploit women, they might start off with women who are more living on the margins,” she said. “I’m very concerned that their voices are not being heard.”
The statement of claim says the women suffered physical and psychological harm as a result of the officers’ alleged sexual misconduct. Some plaintiffs are in counselling, and some have had trouble supporting themselves, the document says.
The lawsuit seeks damages and costs for the plaintiffs. Moore said the women are also hoping to spark change within the police force.
“They are interested in reforming the system,” she said. “They’re hopeful that this case will … prompt the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to think about how they’re training their officers and what messages are being spread in their institution.”
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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