It took four days of testimony to lay out the Crown’s case in a sexual assault trial involving a couple from Ireland living in Saskatchewan, but merely 30 seconds for the judge to give his verdict of not guilty.
Following a judge-alone trial last month, Chief Justice Marty Popescul acquitted the accused husband, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of his wife, of five charges Wednesday morning. They consist of two counts of sexual assault, one count of sexual assault with a weapon and two counts of uttering death threats.
His reasons were outlined in a 37-page decision. They stem from allegations that the man threatened his wife during arguments that she would “disappear” just like an ex-girlfriend of his in Ireland, who has been missing for almost 20 years. The woman also testified that her husband would tell her that he had done it before and that nobody would find her. On another occasion, the woman said her husband told her that the only way she would be leaving Canada would be “in a box”.
The complainant’s teenage daughter from a previous marriage testified that she overheard her stepfather threaten her mother. But in his decision, Popescul wrote that her evidence was vague and could have been influenced by the fact that she did not like the accused.
The couple had emigrated from Ireland in 2012, but court heard the woman was not happy living in Saskatchewan and wanted return home, resulting in the arguments where the alleged threats were made.
Popescul wrote that he was left with a reasonable doubt on the threat charges because the husband denied the accusations and the testimony from his wife and stepdaughter was not credible.
“It appears to be an attempt to cause legal trouble for the accused so as to assist in her quest to return to Ireland,” he wrote.
The woman went to police in 2014 after discovering that her and her children’s passports were missing. That’s when she reported that her husband had threatened her.
The investigation led to a search of the couple’s home in rural Saskatchewan. It uncovered numerous video recordings depicting the couple engaging in sex acts that the woman testified she did not consent to because she appeared either intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, sometimes to the point of passing out.
The woman also said that she did not know about the recordings, even though her husband testified that the tapes were a part of the couple’s sex life. A large portion of the trial focused on the makeup his wife was wearing in the videos including blue eye shadow, red lipstick, fake nails and fake eyelashes. The accused said it was their “sex makeup” but the complainant said she had never seen it before.
The Crown argued that the accused would put the makeup on his wife without her knowledge after she had consumed alcohol. He would then film them having non-consensual sex and remove the woman’s makeup before she woke up.
“Such a theory is not only improbable, it borders on the impossible,” Popescul wrote.
Some of the videos showed the woman applying her own lipstick. The stepdaughter also testified that her mother had purchased blue eye shadow online.
Popescul acquitted the accused of the sexual assault charges, ruling that the woman’s testimony about the tapes and the makeup was inconsistent with what she told police and therefore not credible.
“It would appear that the motivation for the complainant to concoct the story that she did was to put the accused in a bad light so that it would pave the way for her to get back home to Ireland with her two children,” he ruled.
The complainant did not appear to be present when the decision was handed down Wednesday morning at Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench. Prosecutor Buffy Rodgers said the Crown will be reviewing the decision for any possible errors, adding that she knew the belief that the woman was motivated to fabricate the allegations was a factor that the judge would take into consideration.
“That type of an issue will always come up if a female partner or male partner wants to leave a marriage because of abuse. There’s children involved, there’s going to be a child custody issue, how will we ever get away from that issue?”