Pam Frampton: Snelgrove verdict a lightning rod
If 91 per cent of sexual assaults are never reported to the police, as Statistics Canada tells us, imagine how many people are keeping that hurt to themselves, for whatever reason.
RNC Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove
©Rosie Mullaley/The Telegram file photo
Protesters this week have demanded that the RNC fire Const. Doug Snelgrove, who was found not guilty last Friday of sexual assault, but admitted during the trial that in December 2014 he drove a young woman to her home and had sex with her while he was on duty. The woman, who was 21 at the time, claimed Snelgrove sexually assaulted her. Snelgrove claimed the sex was consensual.
Despite Snelgrove’s acquittal, there remains the controversial and ignoble fact of an RNC officer having sex while on duty.
(Some people might object to the phrase “having sex,” given that the complainant said it was sexual assault. But with the jury’s not guilty verdict, “having sex” is technically and legally accurate, unless the Crown appeals and wins.)
The question then becomes whether having sex while on the job amounts to “conduct unbecoming a police officer and liable to bring discredit upon the constabulary,” as Section 7(1)(p) of the RNC Regulations puts it.
To many, the short answer is yes.
But don’t be surprised if the battle over Snelgrove’s job is long and ugly. After all, with the jury’s verdict, he can argue that although he had sex while on the job, it was a lapse in judgment, will never happen again, doesn’t reflect his stellar service record, etc.
The cops’ union, the RNC Association, will likely come to Snelgrove’s defence. No, not likely will — it definitely will, simply because that is its job.
A union has a responsibility to protect its members, so the association will probably take the position that Snelgrove’s 19-minute lapse in judgment should not destroy his career.
None of the jockeying to remove Snelgrove from his job or keep him in his job will even begin for at least another month.
If the Crown appeals before the 30-day deadline, the legal process will begin anew and Snelgrove will remain suspended without pay, as per RNC Chief William Janes’ statement last Friday.
If a Crown appeal is accepted, a new trial will be held and Snelgrove’s suspension status will continue.
If a Crown appeal is rejected, or if the Crown doesn’t appeal, Snelgrove’s fate goes to the RNC Public Complaints Commission.
The Public Complaints Commission is, somewhat ironically, notoriously secretive. It doesn’t, as a matter of policy, reveal any information about complaints that have been made.
A spokesman told me on Thursday that the commission was only confirming that a complaint had been made about Snelgrove because Janes had previously referred to it.
Neither will the Public Complaints Commission even begin its process regarding the Snelgrove complaint until after the courts are finished with the case, i.e., no appeal is filed by the Crown within 30 days, a Crown appeal application is rejected or an appeal is accepted and another trial held.
Justice can be slow in coming, indeed.
What won’t be slow or lacking is public outrage. There will be rage if the Crown doesn’t appeal. There will be rage if the Crown appeals, but is rejected. There will be rage, again, if the Crown’s appeal is accepted, but a retrial acquits Snelgrove a second time.
A Google search takes about one minute to find dozens of cases about police officers being fired for having sex on the job, sometimes with each other. Most of those cases, however, involve ongoing and repeated sexual activity.
If Snelgrove remains an innocent man in the eyes of the legal system when the Public Complaints Commission deals with his case, his lawyer and/or the RNC Association’s lawyer will undoubtedly rely heavily on his transgression being a single, 19-minute lapse in judgment rather than habitual behaviour warranting firing.
Will they win? Well, his lawyer won last week.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.