A very different version of events was presented to the judge and jury at the Court of Queen’s Bench Tuesday afternoon as the man accused of sexual assault in a 1974 incident took the stand in his own defence.
The accused, who the Herald has chosen not to name in order to protect the identity of the complainant, admitted he had sexual relations with his accuser, but insisted that it was she — not him — who had initiated the contact.
He said she was about three weeks pregnant when the alleged incident took place but wasn’t showing many signs.
She was living in his home with his wife — who was close to the accuser, he said — after needing a place to stay.
That night, he testified, he was in the kitchen, at the sink when the complainant came in.
She was wearing a knee-length housecoat, he said, not the nightgown she said she was wearing.
He said she walked past him, then stopped and turned. They had a short conversation. He doesn’t remember what was said.
Then, he alleges, she put her hands on his shoulders and began to undo his shirt buttons. He undid her housecoat to reveal her underwear.
“She was ready to have sex,” the accused said.
They engaged in sexual relations.
It was over quickly, he testified, then the two had another short conversation, and then they engaged for a second time.
“That was it,” he said.
About a week or so later, the accused testified, he asked the complainant if she wanted to have relations again. The two were sitting together in the living room.
“She said no,” he recalled.
“I never, never asked her again and she never approached me again.”
He was asked if she asked what was going on, if he shushed her or if she threatened to tell his wife.
“No, none of that,” he said.
He denied what the complainant says the two of them said in the bedroom.
He also said the dynamic between himself and the complainant didn’t change after that.
“The relationship was very good,” he testified.
“There was no problem.”
He recalled a time he and his wife visited the complainant in Innisfail, Alta. They stayed for a week, he said, in a camper parked on the complainant’s acreage.
Later, he said, he installed a skylight on one of her homes — though he can’t remember which one.
He said the relationship was good until the 2000s when his wife and the complainant had a falling out.
“After that, the relationship with (the complainant) was finished.”
He said the two didn’t have any further contact, and they only saw each other at group functions.
He hadn’t thought about the complainant, he said, until the police contacted him in January of 2019 about something that happened in 1974.
Based on the conversation, the accused said, he thought he was going in to be asked about an incident from his previous career as a member of the fire department.
Instead, he was told he was being accused of sexually assaulting someone.
“I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone in my entire life,” the accused said while on the witness stand. “I’ve never assaulted anyone, period.”
He was asked if he had a criminal record. He said he didn’t.
“I got a speeding ticket once when I was in high school.”
He said when he was accused of sexual assault, he was “shocked.”
He was asked then if he ever had sexual relations with the complainant.
He told the officer that as far as he could remember, he hadn’t. He said no.
As questioning continued, he refused to talk to the officer and demanded he first talk to a lawyer.
However, he said, on the drive home from the Prince Albert Police Station, he began to calm down and his memory was refreshed. He began to remember details about that night in 1974.
He said that he had a “mini-stroke” in 2004, and since then, he has to really concentrate to get his memories. Some things — like his brother’s wedding — he said he doesn’t remember at all. He stressed that it was a mini-stroke, not a full one.
He was asked again if he ever had sexual relations with the complainant.
He gave a brief answer.
“Not without her consent.”
Crown challenges return of memory
Much of the cross-examination focused on the police statement the accused gave in early 2019.
Crown attorney Kristen Hubbard did, though, start with the night of the alleged incident.
She asked the accused if, to his memory, the sexual activity was consensual.
The accused didn’t understand the question.
He did say, at least twice, that it was “mutual.”
She then asked him if he asked her before engaging in the act. He hadn’t. Hubbard asked if the complainant had asked him before the act. He said she hadn’t.
“I can’t remember my conversation fully,” he said. “It was well over 45 years ago.”
Hubbard then turned to the police interview.
“At that point, I wasn’t sure what was going on,” the accused said.
He told Hubbard that he told the police that he had never sexually assaulted anyone. He also told them that he didn’t want to talk to them anymore.
When they asked if he ever had relations with the complainant, he told them “no, I can’t remember.”
Hubbard suggested to him that the statement to police that he didn’t have relations with the complainant was untrue.
The accused disagreed.
“It was true at the time,” he said. “I started recovering memory.”
She asked him if it was a memory that would stand out in his mind, if it was one that was significant.
It wasn’t, he said.
She asked him why, if he didn’t think about all of it, he suddenly had specific details about that night.
“It didn’t stick in my mind. Why would I have it in my memory?” he said.
“I had no reason to remember it.”
Still, he insisted, he now remembers it fully.
“I have a pretty clear memory I recovered.”
He said that there has to be a reason, something to get a memory going, before he can fully remember it.
He also told Hubbard that he did attempt to go back to the police to correct his story, but that at that time, they had already handed the file over to the Crown’s office and weren’t interested in what he had to say.