Saturday, May 18

Canadian woman sues UK government over alleged sexual assault by sailors



A Canadian woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by British sailors has filed a lawsuit against the UK government, arguing that it is vicariously liable for any harm caused by its employees.

The lawsuit stems from a 2015 incident in Shearwater, Nova Scotia, in which four members of the British Navy were charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm.

Charges were later dropped against one of the men, due to a lack of sufficient evidence. In 2017 charges were withdrawn against another of the accused after a judge ruled that his nearly one and half hour wait to see a lawyer had violated his rights.

The two remaining men, Darren Smalley, 37, and Simon Radford,33, will face a criminal trial in Nova Scotia in September. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

In a lawsuit filed last week in the supreme court of Nova Scotia, the plaintiff, whose identity is protected by a publication ban in the criminal case, said the alleged assault took place after the sailors arrived in Canada to take part in a hockey tournament.

The men’s positions led her to trust them, the statement of claim noted. That the defendant’s employees made themselves known as members of the Royal Navy made the plaintiff feel safe in accepting this offer and being in their presence.

At the barracks, she accepted their offer of a drink and later woke up from an unconscious state in a bed within the barracks over the course of being sexually assaulted by several of the Defendant’s employees, the statement of claim, which has not been tested in court, noted.

She sought medical attention the next day and reported the assault to authorities.

The lawsuit argues that the UK government bears responsibility, as it paid for its employees to travel to Nova Scotia and represent its interests.

The woman’s lawyer, Mike Dull, said the lawsuit was also motivated by his client’s belief that the UK government is funding the costs of defending the sailors. And so rather than taking a hard look at the facts and apologising or at least sort of recognising it in some way, the UK government has instead  from my client’s perspective chosen to get behind her assaulters and fund their defence.

His client had suffered trauma after the assault, he added, noting that this has been exacerbated by the strong criminal defence which has been put up by the accused, her assaulters.

While the amount being sought for damages is not specified in the lawsuit, court documents classify the amount as exceeding C$100,000.

The UK government is expected to be formally notified of the action in the next month or so and from there will have 45 days to file a notice of defence.

On Wednesday the British Ministry of Defence did not respond to a request for comment from the Guardian.