A woman who alleges she was sexually abused by former Esquimalt police officers about 30 years ago has dropped the Victoria Police Department from a civil suit filed last year, and is instead looking to hold the township liable.
The $5.3-million lawsuit alleges abuses ranging from sexual harassment to sexual assault against Saanich-based Jane Doe, born in 1972. It was amended on Jan. 4 to now name the Township of Esquimalt as a defendant, replacing VicPD.
The four Esquimalt officers who Doe claims abused her from 1989 to 1993 are also named as defendants, with one denying the allegations recently.
Scott Malcolm Connors, Robert Bruce Cowick, Samuel Donald Devana and Kenneth Barrie Cockle, all employed as constables with the former Esquimalt Police Department when the allegations are said to have taken place, are named as defendants. The Esquimalt and Victoria police departments were formally amalgamated in 2003.
In her civil claim, the plaintiff said she became known to the Esquimalt police department in 1989 when she was arrested on six counts of theft. By October of that year, the 17-year-old Doe was employed as a paid informant for the department and Connors was assigned as her handler, the suit says.
It goes on to say Doe was “subjected to an escalating pattern of sexual harassment and abuse,” by Connors, Cowick, Devana and Cockle.
The allegations against Connors in the claim include touching Doe, making sexual comments towards her and soliciting her to commit illegal acts. The suit claims Cowick solicited Doe for oral sex on at least four occasions while on duty.
Connors, in a response filed to the courts on Jan. 21, said his time as an Esquimalt officer did include investigative techniques such as engaging with informants and he would receive information about property and drug-trafficking crimes from Doe.
Connors claims his dealings with Doe were “entirely professional and specifically, without intimidation, improper inducement or any other of the alleged unprofessional or illegal behaviours.” He denies Doe’s characterizations in 11 paragraphs where his name is mentioned in her suit, and says the rest is outside his knowledge.
A 1995 public inquiry was conducted by the Esquimalt Municipal Police Board at Doe’s request. It ultimately found a lack of definitive proof of the allegations against Devana, while allegations against Connors were dismissed due to a lack of evidence and missing testimony from Doe. She ended her participation in the inquiry before it was over, due to what the suit describes as her “feelings of overwhelming and psychological terror” at having to testify against Connors.
Ultimately, the suit claims, Doe continues to suffer from emotional, physical and psychological damage and ongoing mental turmoil. Doe seeks $2.65 million from Esquimalt for damages and past and future economic loss, and the same amount from the four former officers.
In an email, Township of Esquimalt spokesperson Tara Zajac said they are “actively seeking legal advice,” but will not comment further as the matter is before the courts.
None of the allegations have been proved in court.
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