A B.C. man wrongly imprisoned on a string of sexual assault charges is now getting a big cash award.
For Ivan Henry, 27 years in prison means $8-million in compensation from the B.C. government.
Henry sued the City of Vancouver and senior levels of government after he was acquitted in 2010 of ten sex assault convictions.
In today’s ruling, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Hinkson said Henry would likely have been acquitted during the original 1983 trial had he received the proper disclosure he was entitled to.
In a statement, Attorney General Suzanne Anton says Canadian law on disclosure has undergone significant developments since Henry’s criminal trial.
“Today, B.C. Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson found the British Columbia government civilly liable for the conviction of Mr. Ivan Henry, and for the years he spent imprisoned. As such, he has been awarded $8,086,691.80 in damages from the Province.
In the coming weeks, Ministry of Justice legal counsel will review the reasons for judgment and provide advice on next steps.
Mr. Henry was convicted in 1983. Following a review of new evidence gathered by the Vancouver Police, Crown counsel brought their concerns to the Criminal Justice Branch, a special prosecutor was appointed, and the appeal was re-opened and heard in 2010. In October of that same year, the BC Court of Appeal acquitted Mr. Henry of all 10 sexual assault convictions, leading to his release from jail.
After the convictions were set aside, Mr. Henry filed a civil suit against three defendants, including the Province of British Columbia, claiming that Crown had breached his Charter rights relating to evidentiary disclosure.
It is important to recognize that Canadian law on disclosure has undergone significant developments since Mr. Henry’s criminal trial in 1982. The legal obligations for police and prosecutors in making disclosure to the defence are now much more robust and clearly defined.
As part of our obligations to the administration of justice, we will continue to remain sharply focused to ensure that our processes, practices and decisions on prosecutions respect the constitutional rights and entitlements of any British Columbian accused of a crime.”
The city and the feds earlier settled with Henry for an undisclosed amount.
But a retired Vancouver Police officer who worked the case says she’s troubled by today’s outcome, arguing it puts the focus on the wrong person.
“I remember the weather at the time, I remember it was foggy, it was dark,” says Norteen Waters.
More than 30 years later, she still can’t shake the call she got, responding to a victim of the so-called “ripoff rapist.”
She says those women are being dishonoured by today’s findings on Henry’s botched trial.
“Let’s not glorify this person, let’s realize that yes he got off on a technicality, but lets look at the fact of what the victims are going through.”
“And that stays with them for the rest of their lives. And for me, I remember it. And that was back in the early 80’s when I took that report. And I remember it as clear as it happened today. What happened to that young girl.”
The BC Supreme Court ruled prosecutors’ handling of evidence “seriously infringed” Henry’s right to a fair trial and demonstrated “a shocking disregard for his rights.”
DNA technology was not available at the time, and the case’s physical evidence has since been destroyed.
Disappointment, too, from Vancouver Rape Relief after hearing of the decision in the case.
Crisis worker Louisa Russell says there is no closure for the victims in these attacks.
“The B.C. Court of Appeal made it very clear, when he was released from jail, they were not exonerating Ivan Henry. His innocence was never proven.”
Russell says it’s bittersweet for one of the victims, whose attack anniversary is coming up.
She says for all the victims, it’s another way by which they relive their attacks.
Justice reporter talks about case on Simi Sara Show
Ian Mulgrew is the Vancouver Sun’s justice writer, he spoke with Mike Smyth about the entire case from the early 1980s to today’s judgement.