Sex offender Doug Snelgrove seeking to walk free, without 4th trial, as appeals court decides verdict

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer Doug Snelgrove waits for his appeal hearing on Thursday. (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer Doug Snelgrove waits for his appeal hearing on Thursday. (Mark Quinn/CBC - image credit)

Defence lawyers for a St. John's police officer convicted of raping a young woman on duty in 2014 are pushing to have his conviction stayed — which would result in Doug Snelgrove walking free from a four-year sentence handed down last year.

Snelgrove, a constable with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, has been out on bail since his appeal application was accepted late last year.

He was convicted in 2021 — after his third trial for the same charge — of sexually assaulting a woman he'd driven home after she spent a night out downtown.

The woman testified she had been drinking and couldn't remember consenting to sexual intercourse with Snelgrove, who was on duty at the time. Snelgrove testified the woman didn't appear intoxicated and verbally consented to intercourse.

Thursday's hearing at the provincial Court of Appeal saw a Toronto legal duo, Janani Shanmuganathan and Owen Goddard, argue that Snelgrove's conviction should be overturned due to alleged errors made when the judge instructed the jury and answered their questions during deliberations last year.

The jury had asked about the concepts of recklessness and willful blindness, to which Justice Vikas Khaladkar gave a short and incomplete definition, said Snelgrove's counsel, without using examples or referring specifically to the subjective nature of those ideas in criminal law.

Snelgrove's laywers argued that wasn't enough to guide the jury on what those concepts meant.

"Once the jury asks the question you've got to get your answer right," Goddard said.

"To tell them 'disregard,' or define the concepts properly. But what you can't do is answer them wrongly, opening up new routes to liability, brief and incorrect in law."

Mark Quinn/CBC
Mark Quinn/CBC

The Crown, meanwhile, argued the jury would simply have returned for clarification if jurors hadn't understood.

Shanmuganathan and Goddard also argued the Criminal Code was violated during trial proceedings, pointing to several instances in which Snelgrove wasn't present for conferences between counsel and Khaladkar.

Not attending those meetings was inherently prejudicial, they argued.

Crown counsel Kathleen O'Reilly suggested those instances didn't violate the Criminal Code and, even if they had, wouldn't have affected the trial's outcome.

A date hasn't yet been set for the appeal decision. If Snelgrove's conviction is overturned, the Crown says it will seek a fourth trial.

His lawyers are asking the court to stay his conviction, arguing that the police officer has been tried too many times on the same charge.

If his charges are stayed, Snelgrove would essentially walk free.

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