Thursday, July 30, 1998

Phinjo Gombu

p. B1.

No appeal in Jane Doe case

Wouldn't serve interests of taxpayers, police board decides

The Toronto Police Services Board will not appeal the Jane Doe verdict that found the force was utterly negligent in the investigation of the so-called "balcony rapist."

"Our decision is that we're not going to appeal the case," board chair Norm Gardner said last night as board members emerged from a 2 1/2-hour huddle at the Holiday Inn on King St. W. near Metro Hall.

"We will have a press release giving all the reasons (today)." Gardner and fellow councilors Judy Sgro, Sherene Shaw and civilian members Maureen Prinsloo and Sylvia Hudson, who were at the meeting, said it was a difficult decision to make, but in the end they decided an appeal would not serve the interests of taxpayers.

"We do not agree with a lot of the comments that the judge made, but in the long run, we weighed all of the factors and there was almost a unanimous decision that we would not be appealing the case."

And not long after the meeting ended, a cheque for $220,000 plus interest was handed to Doe's lawyer Sean Dewart for the damages awarded to Doe by Madam Justice Jean MacFarland earlier this month.

The board vote occurred in spite of a last-ditch attempt by Weir and Foulds, lawyers for the Toronto Police Services Board, to reopen the issue and launch an appeal.

The attempt was made even though city council, which funds the court fights, decided earlier this month by a vote of 51-1 not to appeal the case and so directed the board.

After waiting all day for the news, Doe said: "It's been fabulous, I look forward to working with the committee that the police have set up to review changes in police training and protocol involving the crime of sexual assault."

The dramatic day full of political intrigue, which saw the police services board wavering all day, began with a hasty called meeting of the city's executive committee, made up of the mayor and heads of council committees.

It included an unsuccessful attempt by police board lawyers and the police chief to win over Mayor Mel Lastman the day before to reopen the earlier council decision not to appeal the verdict.

Police board votes against appeal

In the private executive committee meeting yesterday, councilors joined Lastman in rejecting an appeal. They even refused to accept a confidential report by Weir and Foulds lawyer George Rust-D'Eye outlinig grounds for appeal and essentially killed any further discussion on the issue.

Rust-D'Eye argued the potential liability to city taxpayers will run into the millions of dollars. Present were his colleagues Bryan Finlay and Greg Richards, who fought and lost the Doe verdict before MacFarland.

MacFarland ruled earlier this month that police had been utterly negligent in not warning Doe and other women about a serial rapist in 1986.

Sources said councillors blasted Rust-D'Eye for recommending an appeal and told him the city was sticking to its vote earlier this month not to appeal the verdict.

During that meeting, council voted to also apologize to Doe and the women of Toronto, saying it was time to take the issue out of the hands of lawyers.

At the top of councillors' minds yesterday was the revelation that the cost of the entire litigation, which was controlled by a claims review committee made up of bureaucrats and lawyers, was more than $2.5 million.

Coming out of the special meeting, various councillors spoke strongly about the fact that the agenda had been captured once again by lawyers. "This is a case of lawyers run amok," Councillor David Miller (High Park) -- a lawyer himself -- said.

He, like many others, disputed the threat from lawyers that not appealing the verdict would cost taxpayers millions of dollars in future lawsuits and essentially open the floodgates to more claims.

the most significant of these lawsuits is a multi-million one brought forward by nine victims of the Scarborough Rapist. Like Doe's it also charges police with negligence in that investigation in the late '80s and early '90s.

Precedent set

Miller said a precedent had already been set in 1990 when Doe won the right to sue police, a decision which was upheld by a trial judge, three divisional court judges and a divisional court judge. Since then, he said, there hasn't been a flood of lawsuits.

Rust-D'Eye refused to speak to reporters after the meeting citing solicitor-client privilege .

The committee's decision threw the Toronto Police Services Board members into a quandary because they thought council , not the executive committee would make any decision.

Gardner, with councillors Sgro and Shaw, along with Prinsloo and Hudson, then met privately. When they came out, they were uncertain about where they stood. Gardner refused to be pinned down on the issue, while Sgro said the board had decided to seek the opinions of two independent lawyers to sort out the conflicting report.

Sgro said she had lost confidence in the ability of Weir and Folds to give unbiased advise, and was frustrated with all the conflicting information about who had the final say on an appeal. One possibility raised was appealing parts of the ruling and still paying Doe her damages.

But Dewart, Doe's lawyer, and Doe herself quickly put cold water on that idea. "I never did this for money," said Doe, who sat quietly in the council chamber as events developed.

"My client is fighting for more than money," Dewart said, pointing to the issue of policing and Charter rights violations noted by the judge.

Police services board members then decided to meet later in the evening because Tuesday is the last day for an appeal to be filed.

An intense lobbying campaign by fellow coucillors took place all day.

"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