Alleged victims sue man awarded millions after acquittal in sex-assault case

Alleged victims sue man awarded millions after acquittal in sex-assault case

VANCOUVER — A British Columbia man who spent 27 years wrongfully imprisoned for sexual assault is being sued by five alleged victims who say he doesn't deserve the millions of dollars he was awarded as compensation.

The five unnamed women filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court on Friday alleging that Ivan Henry broke into their homes in the 1980s and sexually assaulted them.

He was convicted in 1983 on 10 counts of sexual assault but those convictions were overturned seven years ago.

The civil lawsuit alleges that in most of the five cases Henry told the women he was looking for someone who had ripped him off, he asked about a boyfriend and then sexually assaulted them.

"The conduct of the defendant was calculated to inflict emotional suffering and psychological damage upon the plaintiffs," the document says.

The allegations have not been proven in court and Henry has not filed a statement of defence with the court.

Marilyn Sandford, Henry's lawyer, said it is sad her client is being asked to defend himself again, adding the evidence has not changed and Henry is confident the court will side with him again.

"The fact that Mr. Ivan Henry is innocent can't be changed," she said in an interview. "That's the reality. We appreciate it may be difficult for some to accept."

Sandford said Henry wouldn't be available for an interview.

"He understands not everybody sees things the same way, particularly women who have been through such a traumatic incident and have believed for so many decades that he is the perpetrator," Sandford said. "Those are difficult ideas to dislodge from them, and he understands that."

Henry's conviction was overturned in the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2010 because of flaws the judge found in both the trial and the police investigation, including a lineup photo that showed plain-clothed officers holding Henry in a headlock.

Henry, who is now in his 70s, sued and was awarded $8 million in damages from the provincial government in 2016. He was also awarded an undisclosed amount of compensation from the City of Vancouver and the federal government.

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson of the B.C. Supreme Court said in the settlement decision that Henry would likely have been acquitted during his 1983 trial had Crown prosecutors disclosed the evidence to him. He said the Crown's decision to withhold information from Henry, who acted as his own lawyer, demonstrated a "shocking disregard" for his rights and "seriously infringed" on his right to a fair trial.

The notice of civil claim filed by the five women seeks damages and asks that Henry be denied the money he was awarded for wrongful imprisonment.

Scott Stanley, who represents the five women, said the civil lawsuit is intended to give his clients a voice.

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Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press