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Sexual acts were consensual, accused Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer testifies

RNC Const. Doug Snelgrove leaves the former School for the Deaf in St. John's Tuesday morning. Snelgrove's sexual assault trial is being held there instead of at the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court building, since it offers more space for a socially distant jury trial.
RNC Const. Doug Snelgrove leaves the former School for the Deaf in St. John's Tuesday morning. Snelgrove's sexual assault trial is being held there instead of at the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court building, since it offers more space for a socially distant jury trial.

Doug Snelgrove takes the stand at his trial

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

RNC Const. Doug Snelgrove admitted Tuesday he doesn’t know why he went into the home of a 21-year-old woman he had just driven home the night of Dec. 21, 2014.

She was inside her apartment safely and he was still on duty, with a report to write and calls coming in, he explained.

“I basically said to myself, I’m just going to go. There’s really no reason for me to be here,” Snelgrove said. “I started to leave and she came up to me and stepped in front of me and started to kiss me.”

Snelgrove, 43, told the jury in his sexual assault trial he had been parked outside the St. John’s city lockup that night, sitting in his police vehicle and about to begin writing a report for the call he had just left when the woman approached the passenger side and attempted to open the door.

“She asked me if I could give her a ride home,” Snelgrove testified. “I said no, I can’t, I’m writing a report. She asked again and said she was stuck. I kept saying no, I was busy.”

Snelgrove said he eventually gave in and opened the door for the woman, who got in the back seat of the car and slid to the middle. He opened the barrier between them so they could talk during the drive, he explained. He said he could detect a faint smell of alcohol on the woman’s breath, but she was speaking and walking normally and didn’t appear to be drunk.

At one point the woman told him he was attractive. He responded by telling her she was “cute or pretty.” The rest of the chatter was about work, friends and a mutual police acquaintance, he said.

Outside the woman’s apartment, she got out of the vehicle and thanked him for the ride, then walked toward her residence, he said. He got back in the car and, thinking it was a quiet spot to finish his report, began typing. Snelgrove told the court he “just wanted to get rid” of the woman.

Snelgrove said the woman returned to the vehicle after five minutes or so, and told him that she couldn’t find her keys. He suggested driving her to a friend’s house, but the woman insisted on staying, so he pushed open a window. She crawled inside and then opened the front door and asked him to come in, he told the court.

While she was kissing him, the woman took off all her clothes until she was “completely naked,” Snelgrove testified. He said the woman had tried to unclip the belt of his uniform, but it was tricky, so he “did that part for her.”

The woman performed oral sex on him before leading him to the loveseat, where they had intercourse, he told the court.

“I asked her what she liked. She said, ‘Anything,’ Snelgrove said. “I said, 'What do you mean, anything?' She looked at me and said, ‘I’d do everything.’”

The police officer told the court the woman agreed to have anal sex with him, and they did.

“She was fully engaged. She was fully aware of what was happening,” despite remaining in the same flat position on her back, Snelgrove told prosecutor Lloyd Strickland on cross-examination.

Once he was finished, he washed up in the bathroom, got dressed and left, he said.


“I would say I disrespected the uniform to some degree, yes. I would say there was some disciplinable action, I agree.” — RNC Const. Doug Snelgrove


“How were you feeling?" Snelgrove’s lawyer, Randy Piercey, asked him.

“I was upset like I am now,” the officer replied. “I thought of my wife and what I’ve done.”

“Prior to (the complainant) taking her clothes off, did you have any idea you were going to have sex with this girl?” Piercey asked. “Was your intent to have sex with her? Can you think of anything you did to induce her to have sex?”

“No,” Snelgrove answered firmly to each question.

The complainant testified last week, telling the court she had been on a night out with friends downtown when she felt she had become too drunk and needed to go home and sleep. She had walked toward Water Street to hail a cab and came across an RNC vehicle. As she approached, the officer rolled down his passenger window and asked if she was OK or needed a ride home, she said.

“I thought it would be safer to go with a police officer if he was offering me a ride,” she testified.

The woman said her memory of the night was patchy. She remembered misplacing her keys and the officer opening a window for her to climb in. She remembered opening her apartment door for him, kissing him and sitting down on the loveseat because she was too drunk to stand.

“The next thing I remember, I came to and he was having anal sex with me,” she said. “In the drunken state I was, I don’t know if I gave consent or not.”

By law, a person cannot give consent if they are severely intoxicated or unconscious, and they can’t legally consent to sexual activity with someone in a position of authority or trust who abuses that position to induce the consent. All sexual activity without consent is a crime.

Some of the woman’s friends also testified, telling the court she had been drunk and describing her as tripping and speaking in short, choppy, slurred sentences.

Strickland questioned Snelgrove on his sobriety assessment training, and the police officer indicated the woman had not displayed any of the regular symptoms of intoxication, in his point of view.

Strickland pointed to Snelgrove’s meticulous note-taking and following of RNC protocol, suggesting it was out of character for him to not follow the accepted procedure of letting the communications centre know he was transporting a lone civilian female and giving his location and mileage before and after the drive.

“I didn’t feel the need to tell them I had a young woman in the car. It wasn’t a police task. She wasn’t detained,” Snelgrove replied.

It’s not an uncommon thing for RNC officers to do, he said.

“I’m going to put it to you that the reason you didn’t want the communications centre to hear she was in the car was because, from the moment you picked her up, you saw an opportunity to be with this young woman,” the prosecutor said.

“No. That is not the case,” Snelgrove answered.

Strickland asked the police officer why he had sex with her if he wanted to get rid of her minutes earlier.

“I put it to you that you expected to have sex with her,” Strickland said.

“No, Mr. Strickland, I didn’t expect anything,” Snelgrove responded.

“You must have gone in there for a reason. You didn’t expect her to cook you a meal, it was three in the morning. What did you expect?” the prosecutor retorted.

Near the end of his cross-examination, Strickland asked Snelgrove if he felt he had disrespected the police force with his actions.

“I would say I disrespected the uniform to some degree, yes,” the officer replied. “I would say there was some disciplinable action, I agree.”

This is Snelgrove’s second time on trial for sexually assaulting the woman. He was originally acquitted by a jury in 2017 before a new trial was ordered.

The trial will continue this afternoon, when the defence calls an expert witness to testify. It’s expected the lawyers will present their closing arguments in the case after that.

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