A judge is criticizing the Yellowknife RCMP after they jailed a victim of a sexual assault last summer.
In a court decision released in early August, Justice Garth Malakoe says he is unable to imagine any circumstance “which would justify this type of treatment of a victim of sexual assault.”
The judge’s statement was made in a verdict rendered on Wade Kapakatoak, who pleaded guilty to sexual assault. Kapakatoak was captured on security cameras sexually assaulting an extremely intoxicated woman behind the Capitol Theatre. The assault was witnessed by the owner of the theatre, who called the police.
Yellowknife RCMP responded to a call for service that a woman was being raped behind the theatre.
“The police arrived to find the woman, a street person, lying on the ground,” the court document states.
“She was intoxicated and uncooperative. The witness who called the police was there to tell them what he saw. He told the police that the woman said she had been raped.”
The woman was not taken to the hospital for a rape kit or a physical examination, but was arrested under the Liquor Act, and held in cells overnight.
“I don’t know that she understood anything I said, just given her intoxication,” a statement from the arresting officer reads.
“But given her intoxication, I made the decision to arrest her pursuant to the Liquor Act for being drunk in a public place and to escort her back to the Yellowknife detachment for her safety.”
But Justice Malakoe says the woman’s treatment by the police merits an examination.
“Ultimately, if the victim is avoiding this trial as a result of this treatment, then her treatment by the police has affected the judicial process,” Justice Malakoe wrote.
“However, at a more basic societal level, it appears the victim was not treated with the dignity and compassion that she or any victim of a sexual assault deserves. I am reluctant to say more because this is not the forum for the examination of this issue and, as I said earlier, the police have not been given an opportunity to respond. Still, on the face of it, the treatment by the police of the victim was egregious. This treatment is an issue that should be examined and the police should have to explain.”
The Yellowknife RCMP would not comment on whether the arresting officer was following protocol during the arrest or what that protocol is. But they say they are currently reviewing the incident, including how policy and training were applied. They will also be looking at the interactions with the woman during and after the arrest and whether any support services were offered.
“I can confirm that we are aware of the Judge’s comments regarding the RCMP’s actions in this matter,” says RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon in an email. “
“We are reviewing the case and have requested a copy of transcript [sic] in order to confirm what information was provided to the courts. We noted the Judge tempered his comments because ‘all of the parties involved have not been given an opportunity to present their side of the story’,” York-Condon said.
“I am confident that after we have had the opportunity to complete our review, we will be in a better position to respond.”
Kapakatoak’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 11.