Stayed sex assault charge speaks to 'hugely flawed' system: victims advocate

Stayed sex assault charge speaks to 'hugely flawed' system: victims advocate

An advocate for victims of sexual assault in Nova Scotia is expressing anger and disappointment after a judge stayed a sexual assault charge against a man because the RCMP waited two years following his arrest to send evidence to a forensic lab for analysis.  

"It was such an important case to go forward for so many reasons," Lucille Harper, executive director of the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre and Sexual Assault Services Association, said Friday.

"The fact now that there has been no trial and that the person alleged of this heinous act of sexual assault is walking free and the survivor who was subjected to sexual assault has no recourse." 

Judge blames RCMP for delays

In a decision released this week, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge ruled the RCMP bore most of the blame for delays that meant Behrang Foroughi-Mobarakeh's trial would not be heard until 38 months after his arrest.

Foroughi-Mobarakeh was charged with sexual assault on March 31, 2014. 

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last year that such trials must be completed within 30 months.

Chris Hansen, spokesperson for Nova Scotia's Public Prosecution Service, confirmed Friday that the Crown will not appeal the stay.

Foroughi-Mobarakeh is a former lecturer in the department of adult education at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S. He is currently listed as an assistant professor at Arizona State University.

More work needs to be done

The outcome of this case, Harper said, is reflective of significant work that needs to be done in a "hugely flawed" criminal justice system.

"It's really disappointing that there were the delays all the way along," she said. "I don't pretend to know all of the various aspects of this case, for sure. But the fact that there were so many delays that meant that there was stay of proceedings, I think speaks to some serious flaws.

"I think women are discouraged from coming forward so this is one more reason not to come forward. This is one more message."

Staff at the women's centre will meet to discuss how they are going to relay their concerns to the RCMP.

Investigation took longer than expected

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said in an email that these types of investigations are extremely complex and this one took longer than expected. 

She said the RCMP encourages victims of sexual asssault to come forward.  

"Sexual assault is a devastating crime that has traumatic and long-lasting effects on the victims, and the RCMP takes its responsibility in these investigations seriously," Clarke said.

Both the Crown and the RCMP are part of a provincial committee formed in 2014 to address delays in the criminal justice system.