RNC officer — awaiting retrial on sex assault charge — wants to be paid while suspended

A Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer awaiting a retrial for a charge of sexual assault is arguing he should be paid while he is suspended from the job.

Doug Snelgrove has been suspended without pay since July 2015, and his retrial is scheduled for March 2020. 

"My argument is that it is unreasonable to be suspended without pay for a long time that was foreseeable," argued Snelgrove's lawyer, John Drover, in a St. John's courtroom Monday.

The suspension has essentially become "constructive dismissal," Drover added. 

Judge Robert Stack said he would review the arguments, but did not set a timeline for when he might make a decision. 

The charge against Snelgrove stems from a 2014 incident when he was on duty and a woman asked for a ride home from a downtown St. John's bar.

The two returned to the woman's apartment and had sex.

Glenn Payette/CBC

At trial, Snelgrove acknowledged he was in uniform that night and knew the woman, 21, had been drinking.

The woman testified she was "too drunk to stand up," and had little recollection of what happened at her apartment.

Asked at trial, "Do you think it's possible that you consented to have sexual relations with that man?" the woman replied, "Because I was so drunk, I don't know how I would have acted. I can't say for sure what I did or didn't do."

A publication ban protects the identity of the woman involved. 

Suspension 'consistent with past decisions by police': Crown

Wendy Zdebiak, lawyer for the RNC chief and a Crown representative, said Snelgrove's application should be dismissed. 

"[It's] unreasonable for Snelgrove to complain about the effect of the governing legislation," she told the court. 

She said the suspension is a "reasonable decision and consistent with past decisions by police."

Court timeline

Snelgrove was acquitted by a jury in 2017, a decision that sparked protests outside RNC headquarters in St. John's a few days after the verdict.

But in a ruling last fall, he was ordered to face a second trial by the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal.

In a 2-1 decision, the province's top court found that the trial judge erred in law in her instructions to the jury.

Snelgrove appealed that decision to the top court in the country, but it was dismissed. 

In March, following a brief hearing and a 15-minute deliberation, the five Supreme Court of Canada justices issued a terse decision, ruling that a jury be asked again to consider whether the officer abused a position of trust in engaging in sexual activity with a person who was highly intoxicated.

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