The B.C Court of Appeal overruled a $483,000 award to a victim of historic sexual abuse last week. The victim, Linda Antrobus, had been awarded the compensation for personal injury from childhood (historic) sexual assault and abuse. the offences took place almost 50 years ago. The Reasons for Judgment were released June 26, 2015.
In the original case, Ms. Antrobus argued that her parents failed to protect her from her grandfather and his friend in 1960. Douglas Antrobus and Farrell Salt allegedly sexually abused her when she was 10 years old, for a period of approximately 14 months.
Both of the alleged perpetrators were deceased at the time of this court action.
Douglas Antrobus was not well known to the family, in part because he had spent many years in prison. It was a finding of fact that Ms. Antrobus’ parents in no way participants in the historical sexual abuse. Rather, the case hinged on them possibly being willfully blind to Douglas’ abuse of their daughter.
The Appeals Court found that the presiding judge on the original case disbelieved her parents’ evidence at trial. That lack of credibility weighed heavily against them.
When the Appeals Court examined the prison records, however, they found that they could have been consistent with the parents’ recollections of events.
Ultimately, the Honourable Mr. Justice Goepel stated, “it cannot be said that William and Joan were negligent in allowing Linda to visit with her grandfather.”
During the case, an Expert Witness provided evidence about the change in understanding about sexual abuse over the past 50 years. Dr. Kwulwant Riar testified that Pedophilia was not well understood in the 60’s.
It was also noted that social norms about supervising children, particularly with family members, has changed over time. What is considered typical parental supervision has changed dramatically since the 1960’s. This underlined the dificulties of applying modern standards of care in historic sexual assault cases.
Justice Goepel stated, “Given the evidence, I find that the trial judge’s conclusions cannot be sustained. His credibility findings were based on palpable and overriding errors. His finding that Joan and William knew, in 1960, that Douglas was a pedophile, in the sense that he had a propensity to re-offend, is not supported by the evidence.”
Moreover, the court clarified that “Their (the parents) obvious concern for her is apparent from the fact they immediately stopped all contact when they learned that Douglas had acted inappropriately.”
The original case was, therefore, overturned. I was not clear if there would be further appeals. The case could be appealed to the Canadian Supreme COurt.
Jayne Embree, M.A.
Jayne holds a Masters in Psychology. Jayne is a highly experienced Divorce Coach and Child Specialist. She is currently working with the Administrative and Human Resources Departments of Butterfield Law.