The RCMP is poised to re-open 25,000 unfounded sexual assault cases, CBC News reports.
In every case, the Mounties did not lay charges because they did not believe there was sufficient evidence or reason to do so.
The decision was taken after several media reports complained about how Canada’s national police force investigates sexual assaults and against a backdrop of an increasing demand to seek out and punish anyone who may have escaped the investigative net.
Like the U.S., Canada has seen a rise in high-profile sexual assault, harassment and general misconduct cases in the last six months. One of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s accusers is an unnamed Canadian actress. In late November a group of women began a class-action suit against the former artistic director of the “Just for Laughs” comedy festival, Gilbert Rozon.
The RCMP have already examined 2,225 cases from 2016 where police investigators determined that there was no cause to lay charges. But, sudden problems have been found in way that the Mounties conducted their work so the force has decided to reopen every file since 2015.
“We don’t have all the file numbers for 2017 yet, but we’re expecting something in the vicinity of 25,000 files,” Sgt. Wendy Smith told CBC News.
Smith is heading-up the new sexual assault review squad that has just multiplied from four to 17 personnel — not counting the part-time staff of cops looking for some extra income from overtime work.
Their review is considering whether investigators adequately documented their reasons for closing a case or if they may have demonstrated a tenuous grasp of consent law.
“During the investigation, not always was a statement taken. That was one issue. Sometimes some of the files or the investigations lacked sufficient supervisory oversight,” Smith said.
“Reviewers noted that some members equated inconsistencies in victims’ statements with dishonesty and demonstrated a general lack of awareness regarding how trauma might affect a victim’s ability to recount events, or how instinctual and unconscious coping strategies may change or mask emotions,” states a report on the unfounded cases from 2015.