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Digest of the Week — Negligent Investigation

Barton v. Nova Scotia (Attorney General) |
2015 CarswellNS 262 |
Nova Scotia Court of Appeal

Law enforcement agencies | Police | Duties, rights and liabilities of officers | Conduct of officers | Negligence

Plaintiff was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault — In 1970, plaintiff pleaded guilty to charge of having sexual intercourse with female between 14 and 16 years of age and was sentenced to one year probation — Thirty-eight years later, complainant recanted statement which accused plaintiff of sexual assault, fresh evidence indicated that complainant's older brother had sexually assaulted her and DNA evidence indicated that older brother was also father of complainant's child — Appeal judge withdrew conviction, quashed conviction and entered acquittal — Plaintiff brought action for damages for negligent investigation carried out by Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for malicious prosecution and for remedy for breach of ss. 7 and s. 12 of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — Plaintiff was awarded $75,000 in provisional damages; action for negligent investigation dismissed; action for remedies for Charter breaches dismissed — Plaintiff appealed — Appeal dismissed — Trial judge properly directed himself that he must not impose post-Charter dictates on police conduct in 1969 — Trial judge clearly accepted that practice followed by police officer did not lead him to conclude his conduct fell below acceptable standard — If there were legitimate issues about whether plaintiff had ever been to RCMP detachment and given statement, or gave one tainted by promises of favour, or threats of disadvantage, plaintiff's counsel would have pursued such lines of inquiry — Any plaintiff alleging negligent police investigation caused harm must demonstrate that identified conduct caused such harm, but trial judge found necessary ingredient of causation had not been made out.
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