A horrific child sexual abuse case thrown out of court after police and Crown officials bungled evidence has prompted the Criminal Justice Branch to amend its policy in handling sensitive prosecution cases.
The Criminal Justice Branch said Friday in a statement it has changed its Child and Vulnerable Youth Policy to ensure senior justice officials review cases involving children where procedural or investigation barriers could affect a prosecution.
The branch and police also developed mutually accepted guidelines to address issues of language translation requirements.
The changes arise after a 2012 report by B.C.’s representative for children, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, revealed that 13 sex abuse-related charges against a father were stayed in January 2010, even though family members reported the alleged incidents to authorities and were prepared to testify.
Ms. Turpel-Lafond’s report, The Impact of Criminal Justice Funding Decisions on Children in B.C., concerned the judicial stay of proceedings against a father in a family of recent immigrants to Canada, for whom English was not their first language.
The case against the father, who faced assault, threatening and incest charges, was stayed when a judge ruled the man’s rights were violated because it took too long to get the case to trial.
“The delay had resulted from failed attempts to obtain an accredited translation and transcription of witness statements into English and provide them to the defence,” said the ministry’s annual report on child and youth victims, released Friday.
“The B.C. Prosecution Service, the Criminal Justice Branch of the Ministry of Justice, recognizes that this was an unacceptable outcome and has taken specific action,” said the report. “The branch and police have co-operated to address the issues of translation requirements by developing mutually accepted guidelines to assist police in identifying when an accredited translator may be reasonably necessary.”
The Justice Ministry said it also enhanced its electronic case management system to highlight files involving child victims and witnesses to ensure special assignment and case management.