Crown opts not to reopen case, recall complainant in Robert Regular trial after judge's error

Robert Regular speaks with his defence lawyer Jerome Kennedy at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court on Wednesday. (Rob Antle/CBC - image credit)
Robert Regular speaks with his defence lawyer Jerome Kennedy at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court on Wednesday. (Rob Antle/CBC - image credit)

The Robert Regular sexual assault trial was thrown into turmoil Wednesday morning, as an error made by the judge last week threatened to grind proceedings to a halt.

The complainant — a woman now in her mid-30s, whose name is protected by a publication ban — has accused Regular, a lawyer, of sexually assaulting her four times.

She alleges the first incident took place when she was around 12, which resulted in an additional charge of sexual interference.

Last week, the complainant spent three days on the stand as a Crown witness.

Under cross-examination, she was asked about an unrelated incident: an investigation by Newfoundland and Labrador's Serious Incident Response Team.

That civilian-led police oversight agency had probed a separate allegation from the complainant claiming she had a sexual relationship with a police officer. It came to light during an interview her mother gave with Regular's private investigator, who passed it on to SIRT.

The identity of that officer is also shielded by a publication ban.

Defence counsel pressed her on inconsistencies in statements she made during the SIRT investigation, which she acknowledged on the stand.

Justice Vikas Khaladkar had restricted what questions the Crown could ask the complainant about the SIRT probe — a decision he now says was a mistake.

That led to a slowdown in proceedings on Wednesday, when the defence called two SIRT investigators to testify, and the Crown raised concerns about those previous restrictions.

The judge briefly mentioned the possibility of restarting the trial altogether.

Those comments preceded a tense exchange, when defence lawyer Jerome Kennedy accused Crown prosecutor Deidre Badcock of engineering a problem.

"This was a Crown not acting properly," Kennedy said.

"It was an ambush. She set it up."

Khaladkar rejected that accusation.

"She didn't ambush anybody," the judge said.

"It falls on me ... Now we have to fix it."

One of those options was allowing the Crown to reopen its case to bring the complainant back to the stand.

In the end, that didn't happen.

After a lengthy break to consider the Crown's position, Badcock said she would have had questions last week, but at this point in time had decided not to reopen her case to bring the complainant back to testify again.

SIRT investigators testify

On Wednesday afternoon, two SIRT investigators took the stand.

Last week, the complainant testified she felt pressured to proceed by SIRT in the separate matter involving a police officer.

William Miller, the lead SIRT investigator for the matter, said that wasn't the case.

"Not in any way," Miller told the court. "No, absolutely not."

The defence highlighted letters from her lawyer at the time, confirming she wished to proceed with the complaint against the police officer.

Without her co-operation, Miller said, the SIRT investigation would have come to a "full stop."

SIRT didn't lay charges against the officer after a lengthy investigation. In a public statement at the time, the watchdog cited major inconsistencies in the complainant's evidence.

Regular's lawyers are highlighting those inconsistences in his defence.

Regular's trial resumes Thursday morning. It is scheduled to wrap up Friday, but may stretch beyond that.

Download our free CBC News app to sign up for push alerts for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador. Click here to visit our landing page.