Thursday, July 9, 1998

Phinjo Gombu and Bruce DeMara

p. E1.

Police urged to accept Doe verdict

Women's groups across Ontario are urging Toronto police not to appeal a stinging court decision against the force for its negligent handling of the Balcony Rapist.

And they've backed a call by councillors Pam McConnell (Don River) and Olivia Chow (Downtown) for city council to order an audit of the way the force is responding to various reports over the years on issues surrounding violence against women.

That issue was to have been debated in council yesterday but is expected to be brought forward today instead.

"We have always seen Jane Doe's case as a demand for police accountability," Toronto Rape Crisis Centre counselor Anna Willat said yesterday at the 519 Church St. Community Centre which was filled with more than 50 supporters of Doe.

"So far, what we have seen is an accountable decision by an accountable judge. How the police choose to react to the decision remains to be seen."

The woman known as Jane Doe last week won a lengthy court battle against the force, 12 years after she became a victim of the serial rapist in the Church and Wellesley Sts. neighbourhood.

Madam Justice Jean MacFarland of the Ontario Court, general division, ruled that the Toronto force was "utterly negligent" in the way it handled the probe. She condemned police for failing to warn the women about the rapist they had already identified, instead using women as "bait" to catch him.

Police apology sought

MacFarland found that the force had violated Doe's Charter rights because of a sexist view of women and also ordered it to pay her $220,000 in damages.

Willat's comments were echoed by letters of support from women's groups and rape crisis groups from Parry Sound to Sudbury, Hamilton and Barrie. They are also demanding police issue an apology to Doe.

The majority of police board members -- with the exception of councillors Judy Sgro and Sherene Shaw -- have avoided making any commitment to an apology.

Police board chair Norm Gardner said the question of an apology, and an appeal, is in the hands of the insurance company, which makes all lawsuit payouts for police.

Members Jeffrey Lyons and Sylvia Hudson echoed Gardner's comments. A sixth member Emilia Valentini told The Star she'd call back with her comments but didn't. Gardner said the board has not yet heard from the lawyers of the unnamed insurance company.

"Who runs the police force? The insurance company?" Willat asked rhetorically?

Gardner did apologize yesterday over remarks he made to a reporter in the aftermath of the Jane Doe verdict. He said his comment that women have made false accusations about rape -- one of the key issues in the trail, which the judge called a "rape myth" -- was misconstrued and over-emphasized.

"I'm sorry if I hurt anybody's feelings," Gardner said, stressing he is completely sensitive toward victims of rape and sexual assault.

"If I, in fact, caused any discomfort to people, then I'm sorry for that. It certainly was never my intention to indicate that people are running around making false accusation all over the place."

Gardner added that he sat on the committee headed by former Metro chairman Paul Godfrey in the early 1980s that looked at violence against women. "I'm the one who asked Godfrey to start (the committee) up," Gardner said.

He said he also championed the Domestic Violence Emergency Response system, despite resistance from both city and police staff.

Willat and others said police have yet to fully act on more than 500 recommendations on issues surrounding violence against women that have accumulated from various task forces, including Mr. Justice Archie Campbell's 1996 report on the Paul Bernado murder and sex crime investigation.

"Balcony Rapist" case... [Fiona Stewart]

Created: February 14, 1999
Last modified: February 14, 1999

J.D. Jane Doe, c/o Walnet Institute
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710