Horne hides behind a technicality

A high-profile sexual assault case involving two Watson Lake RCMP officers is still before the courts, according to Justice Minister Marian Horne.

A high-profile sexual assault case involving two Watson Lake RCMP officers is still before the courts, according to Justice Minister Marian Horne.

Sound odd? That’s because the case wrapped on March 17 when both officers were acquitted by a Yukon court.

But that didn’t stop Horne from making the assertion on Monday, which was used to avoid answering a question from New Democratic Party MLA Steve Cardiff, who wanted to know what the government was doing about women’s safety following the acquittal.

“What has the minister of Justice done to communicate to the RCMP her government’s discomfort with the actions of the officers who were acquitted in the sexual assault case?” said Cardiff, who has also asked the question in a formal letter to the minister.

The case raised concerns about RCMP behaviour, the impact of alcohol in sexual assault cases and the definition of sexual consent, said Cardiff.

Horne listed off the government’s many women-directed programs without ever mentioning anything new or relevant to the recent RCMP case. 

“Since this is a case that is still before the courts, I will not respond to this specific case,” she said.

Technically, she’s right.

The victim in the case has 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision.

But that window ends Friday, four days after she made the comment, making an appeal unlikely.

Still, that didn’t stop Horne from sidestepping the issue.

The RCMP have also been slow to comment on the trial.

Repeated requests have been made to the local detachment for comment on the case and what action is being taken to restore trust between women and police officers in Whitehorse and the communities.

A month later, a statement is still being prepared.

The officers are still facing an internal hearing, which could cost them their jobs. They’re being challenged for breaching the RCMP’s code of conduct.

During last month’s trial, the officers, Shawn McLaughlin and Graham Belak, were acquitted because the victim lacked credibility, said Justice Leigh Gower.

She described being drugged and raped by both officers, while their testimony described a consensual threesome.

A request to speak with Horne wasn’t returned.

Cabinet spokesperson Emily Younker defended Horne’s comment by citing the possibility for appeal.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com.