Nunavut judge finds RCMP constable not guilty on jail-cell sex charge

Crown couldn’t prove that touching during search was sexual


Cst. Justin Dickens is not guilty of sexual assault and not guilty on the lesser included charge of simple assault, Nunavut Justice Bonnie Tulloch ruled Aug. 23 at the end of a three-day trial in Iqaluit.

Dickens, 32, faced a charge of sexual assault in connection with an incident alleged to have occurred March 20, 2010 inside a cell at the Baker Lake RCMP detachment.

Dickens, who sat beside his lawyer, Ursula Goeres, with his hands folded on the defence table, showed no emotion when Tulloch said the Crown had not proven his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Tulloch said the Crown could not prove that Dickens touched a woman prisoner for a sexual purpose during attempts to search her pockets inside a cell at the Baker Lake detachment.

He also showed no emotion when Tulloch, after giving her verdict, lambasted him for flouting RCMP arrest and search policies.

She told Dickens that if poor judgment were a criminal offence, she would have no problem finding him guilty.

The charge arose in April 2012, when a woman who worked as a guard at the Baker Lake detachment made a complaint to police that alleged Dickens sexually assaulted a woman about two years earlier, in March 2010.

Chief Supt. Steve McVarnock, then the commanding officer of the RCMP “V’ division in Nunavut, asked two members of the Yellowknife RCMP detachment to do a preliminary investigation.

After looking at their report, he referred the matter to the Ottawa Police Service, who sent two sexual assault specialists to Nunavut to investigate.

Dickens, who had served four years with the RCMP and owned an unblemished record when the charge was laid, was suspended with pay and put on administrative leave. When the charge was laid, he was working in Whale Cove.

At the trial, he and other witnesses gave conflicting accounts of what happened inside a police cell on March 20, 2010 after he arrested a woman known only as “M.N.” and twice attempted to search the pockets of her jeans.

Dickens had arrested her at the Baker Lake Northern store, after someone called him to complain that M.N. was intoxicated and creating a disturbance.

Tulloch said M.N. and the guard who came forward were honest and truthful when they gave evidence, and she praised them for having the courage to come forward.

But Tulloch said she could not find Dickens guilty, because the Crown could not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Dickens had a sexual motive when his hand brushed M.N.’s buttocks and vaginal area for about 10 to 15 seconds during a search.

She also said there wasn’t enough evidence to support conviction on the lesser included offence of simple assault.

But she also said Dickens breached a variety of RCMP arrest policies and she hopes RCMP commanders tighten up their procedures.

(More to follow)

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