The ease with which courts – both criminal and family – are used to thwart fathers’ relationships with their children is well known. For decades, lawyers have been bewailing the fact that domestic violence restraining orders are used as a matter of course to separate fathers from their children and gain an advantage in custody proceedings. Little-to-no evidence is required for a restraining order to be issued and, often as not, no actual violence need have occurred or even be alleged to have occurred. A man’s allegedly having placed his partner “in fear” of, well, just about anything, is usually sufficient for a judge to issue a restraining order. One particularly absurd (if you’re not the father or his little girl) I wrote about here (Fathers and Families, 8/12/11).
In that case, the mother’s allegation was that the father had placed her “in fear.” When he finally got his “day in court,” he asked her what she was afraid of. Her answer: that he filed motions in court trying to enforce his visitation time that she continually refused. The appellate court ruled that those were sufficient grounds for him to be made the subject of a restraining order. Without going into detail, that order violates the dad’s due process rights in so many different ways I can barely count them all. Plus, it violates his constitutional right to petition for redress of grievances.
The point being that courts, when a claim of domestic violence or sex abuse is made, act simply as a cat’s paw for the mother. Virtually anything can be used to support a claim of violence, even when there’s been none, and the result is the radical diminution of the father’s rights. Far too often, that also restricts the rights of children as well.
This case is a bit different, but re-proves the point (Edmonton Sun, 12/14/12). In it, an unnamed man and unnamed woman lived together in his house. She had three daughters by another man (other men?) who lived with them. That went on for four years of significant relational dysfunction at which time he told them all they’d have to leave. He was done with them.
Well, not quite. That was two years ago and he is only now done with them. That’s because, shortly after telling them they’d have to leave, the woman took the odd tack of showing her daughters a video of an Oprah show about child sexual molestation and asked them if that had ever happened to them. One girl took the hint and said the man had abused her. Mom then took the girls to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police where they all three said they’d been abused. Great minds think alike.
Just in case anyone could be confused about her motives, the mother also callied the Oprah show and actually talked to the great lady herself for an hour. Apparently she failed to be asked to appear on the show herself, although I suspect it might have happened had the man been convicted, which he wasn’t.
He was however charged.
After one of the girls said yes, the woman took them to the RCMP detachment and all three made statements that they had been sexually assaulted by the accused. He was then charged with three counts of sexual exploitation and three counts of sex assault and spent 40 hours in custody.That was in January of 2010. Since then the man has been fighting the charges in court. That all came to an end 10 days ago when Justice Denny Thomas ordered his acquittal.
“That’s it. You are acquitted and free to go,” said Thomas at the conclusion of his ruling.But that’s not all Thomas said. According to him, the RCMP should never have filed charges and prosecutors should never have pursued them. The police investigation was shoddy and incomplete and the Crown pursued the allegations despite clear evidence the woman and the girls were lying. Justice Thomas didn’t mince words.
The Edmonton judge also slammed the Crown and the RCMP for their involvement in the Lloydminster case and said he was prepared to send the court transcripts to the Minister of Justice after offering the “innocent man” a chance to seek costs for legal fees and loss of income.In short, the police and the prosecutors once again acted, not as autonomous servants of the public, but as agents of a mother who was clearly out for revenge because the man had kicked her out of his house and life. The state, in the persons of the police and Crown prosecutors allied itself with the mother despite the fact that there was every reason to think that her allegations were fabricated.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Denny Thomas also took the rare step of announcing the acquittal before reading out his lengthy decision after saying the 50-year-old man had “suffered enough” at the hands of the lying woman…
Thomas ruled the testimony of the woman and her daughters was “not credible” and they gave “false evidence.”
He also described the woman as an “extremely hostile” witness, a “very angry” woman and a “vindictive liar.”
The judge also accepted evidence she had earlier threatened to go to police with the molesting allegations if the accused persisted in making them leave and had said she would hit herself in the face and say he had done it.
The accused maintained he was innocent while testifying in his own defence and Thomas said he believed him.
Thomas criticized the Mounties for conducting an “incomplete” investigation and said he was “offended and upset” with the Crown for proceeding despite nearly everybody realizing it was “a case of false complaints.”
And let’s not forget what these allegations were – the serial sexual abuse of minors. That’s close to as serious a charge as there is and the man stood to spend long years in prison if convicted. So you’d think the state would be extra careful to get it right, but on the contrary, police and prosecutors behaved in an especially negligent manner. To be blunt, they preferred to send an innocent man to prison.
I must congratulate Thomas for not stopping at acquittal. He not only gave the man the opportunity to recoup his attorney fees and costs from the state, Thomas also took the unusual step of reporting the whole matter to the Minister of Justice. My guess is that stands a good chance of getting the attention of the prosecutors who wasted the people’s time and money in their quixotic attempt to convict a man whose only offense was to ask an “extremely hostile” and “very angry” woman to leave his house. These people have obviously attended the Mary Kellett School of Misandric Law Enforcement.
Now, I said I think the judge’s actions might get their attention, but I confess I could be wrong.
It is not known whether the woman will be charged with making a false complaint to police.But of course. Why would the same prosecutors who put a clearly innocent man through two years of legal hell want to prosecute for perjury a woman whom the Queen’s Bench Justice himself called a “vindictive liar?” There was essentially no evidence of wrongdoing by the man, so he was charged; there’s clear evidence of wrongdoing by the mother plus a judge for a witness, so she in all likelihood won’t be. As Doyle Lonergan asked in The Sting, “You follow?”
This time, a Judge had the sense to put a stop to the state’s unquestioning support of a mother who was plainly out for a man’s blood. All too often, judges fail to do that. Indeed, I suspect that the only reason it happened in this case was that trial occurred in criminal court. Family courts are renowned for their willingness to take up a mother’s cause even in the face of clear evidence opposing her. But one case is not enough. False allegations, irrespective of who makes them – must have consequences. Until they do, there’s no reason not to continue making them. For years they’ve blighted the family law system for the very reason that they’re a free shot. If they work, fine; if they don’t, there’s no downside. We see it time and again. It’s one of the main ways children lose their fathers.
Thanks to Kenneth for the heads-up.