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Prosecution says judge made assumptions about complainant's credibility based on how she was supposed to act after alleged offences
The provincial court judge who acquitted Paradise businessman John Michael Roberts of sexual assault made “stereotypical assumptions on how victims of trauma or domestic abuse are expected to react or behave,” according to the prosecution.
It is one of the reasons why the Crown believes Roberts’ acquittal should be overturned, according to documents filed at the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal late last week and obtained by The Telegram.
Following a trial in September, Judge Jacqueline Brazil found Roberts, 51, not guilty of criminally harassing a woman and sexually assaulting her with a beer bottle.
The complainant testified that she first went to the RNC in January 2018, after she had woken up to find her vehicle spray-painted with the words “Two-dollar whore.” Her place of work and her mother’s vehicle had also been spray-painted, and a gas can had been left on her doorstep, she said. The woman blamed Roberts and claimed he had called her persistently from a blocked caller ID.
The night she claimed Roberts sexually assaulted her, she said, they had been having consensual sex that ended when he picked up a beer bottle.
However, the defence pointed out that after the alleged incidents, the woman went inside a dry-cleaning shop, despite seeing Roberts’ truck parked out front. As well, Roberts’ neighbour testified that late one night, he saw a vehicle matching that of the complainant, with a female driver matching her description, park in the driveway he shared with Roberts. The vehicle’s plate number revealed that the vehicle belonged to the complainant.
The defence claimed that showed proof the woman didn’t fear Roberts.
Brazil agreed these points affected the complainant’s credibility.
However, the Crown said in assessing the woman’s credibility, the judge made the mistake of believing she wasn’t fearful because she didn’t react in a way one would expect. The prosecution also believed Brazil erred by relying on “irrelevant evidence” in assessing the woman’s credibility.
The Crown also claims Brazil made inferences that were not supported by the evidence and didn’t consider the totality of the evidence as to whether the Crown had proven that the woman possessed a subjective fear for her safety due to Roberts’ actions.
No date has yet been set to argue the appeal.