A woman is suing the Victoria Police Department and four individuals for a total of $5.3 million for sexual abuse she says she experienced at the hands of Esquimalt police officers from 1989 to 1993.
A notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Nov. 21 alleges abuses ranging from sexual harassment to sexual assault against Saanich-based Jane Doe, who the claim lists as born in 1972.
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 also named as defendants.
The Esquimalt and Victoria police departments were formally amalgamated in 2003.
Background details in a statement of facts listed in the claim say the complainant became known to the Esquimalt PD in 1989 when she was arrested on six counts of theft.
That summer, it states, she began providing information to Connors after he approached her asking for details about an individual possessing drugs. By October of 1989, Connors had the then 17-year-old Doe employed as a paid informant for the Esquimalt Police Department and was assigned as her handler.
The suit asserts that while she was an informant, Doe was “subjected to an escalating pattern of sexual harassment and abuse,” by Connors, Cowick, Devana and Cockle.
The allegations against Connors in the notice of civil claim include touching Doe, making sexual comments towards her and soliciting her to commit illegal acts. The suit says Cowick solicited Doe for oral sex on more than four occasions while he was on duty.
In the suit Doe asserts that Cockle made multiple attempts to solicit sexual favours from her as well as sexually assaulting her in a parking lot. Further, the suit alleges Devana made sexual comments towards Doe, attempted to solicit oral sex from her and touched her undergarments.
The suit states that in 1992 Doe told her probation officer she had been sexually harassed and assaulted by Esquimalt Police Department officers. However, she decided not to file a formal complaint, it adds, because she “feared that her identity as a police informant would be revealed if she commenced a complaint.”
Doe was relocated to Nanaimo later that year over fears that her status as an informant was circulating in the region. By 1995, “the shame and guilt resulting from the abuse became unbearable” for Doe, she asserts, which led her to disclose the allegations to a therapist, who subsequently contacted the Victoria Police Department.
An investigation by the Victoria department based on the therapist’s complaints and a complaint laid by Doe took place between around July and September 1995. Investigators said Doe “was an honest and reliable individual, and that many of her allegations were corroborated,” the suit says. Doe asserts that then-Esquimalt Police Chief Peter Marriott later informed her that no disciplinary action was being taken against the four officers.
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.
In a statement provided to Black Press Media, VicPD spokesperson Cam MacIntyre said not only does the department not comment on matters before the courts, “the incidents alleged in this claim pre-date the amalgamation of the Victoria and Esquimalt police departments and relate to alleged misconduct of members of the Esquimalt Police Department.”
He said any inquiries about this matter should be directed to the Township of Esquimalt. The township is not named in the civil suit.
None of the allegations have been tested or proven in court.
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