Edmonton Sexual Assault Centre reviewing police sex assault files

·2 min read
Police are working with the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton to review case files that did not result in charges.  (Codie McLachlan/CBC - image credit)
Police are working with the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton to review case files that did not result in charges. (Codie McLachlan/CBC - image credit)

Police have teamed up with the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton to conduct reviews of sexual assault investigations that did not lead to charges.

So far, the team has reviewed 251 files over two quarterly sessions that began last October.

"Edmonton is only one of 20 cities in Canada that has taken on this advocate case file review," said Mary Jane James, CEO of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (SACE). "I can confidently say that most of those files were dealt with appropriately, with compassion and with respect for survivors."

Last year, the police sexual assault section investigated 1,111 cases and laid 207 charges.

"Some of those files that didn't go to charge, that was based solely on the complainant and on the survivor," said Staff Sgt. Terrie Affolder. "We give them complete control, which is what they need in this process."

As a result of the reviews, SACE spotted "very few" cases they believe should have resulted in charges, but ultimately agreed with the decisions made by EPS not to lay charges after finding out all the details.

"There's only been a couple of files where we looked at the entire file and we aren't contemplating charges," Affolder said. "None of the files are actually going to move forward with charges that didn't have charges before."

James said her team's main goal is to make sure that sex assault survivors are treated with dignity and compassion.

"I know for sure that lots of survivors have not been satisfied with what they experienced when they went to police for support," James said. "The reason that we wanted to as an organization get involved in this is to see if we could work with EPS to ensure that less and less survivors have that unfortunate and likely unacceptable outcome."

As a result of the reviews, Affolder said, some of the investigators have been given suggestions on improving the ways they deal with complainants.

"We're investigators and we're interviewers," Affolder said. "But sometimes we're not the greatest at being sympathetic and empathetic because we're trying to gather evidence, and that's what SACE is pointing out to us."

Calgary police began conducting reviews with a partner two years ago.