A former RCMP officer has been found not guilty of sexually assaulting a colleague during an off-duty house party eight years ago.
Jason Andrew Tress, who is 34, was stationed in the northern Alberta community of Faust at the time of the alleged assault during a party at the complainant’s home for another officer leaving the detachment.
Tress was later transferred to Red Deer, Alta.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Nathan Whitling listened to three days of testimony this week from Crown and defence witnesses.
Whitling has ruled that the Crown could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a sexual assault took place.
The complainant, whose name is protected by a publication ban, testified that Tress had his mouth over her left breast while she lay in her bed on the verge of passing out, but Tress denied that.
“There is no question the complainant’s memory has been significantly impacted due to her alcohol consumption that night and the passage of time,” Whitling said during his ruling Friday.
He noted significant inconsistencies in the complainant’s different recounts to various individuals of what happened.
Defence lawyer Maurice Collard had argued that the complainant’s testimony was not credible, but Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou dismissed that.
“This woman is a young woman, became intoxicated in her own house amongst friends, and was put to bed by people who she believed were her friends,” Papadatou told court during closing arguments. “And a colleague took advantage of her.”
Collard said both he and Tress are pleased with the decision.
“I appreciate that the flavour of the day is for government to pick on police officers. However … to be digging up garbage from 2012 that has already been found to be unfounded is shameful. This community needs more good police officers, not less, and they should stop being targeted,” Collard said outside court.
“Mr. Tress is very happy he won the trial, but the career and reputation of a good police officer has been destroyed and that remains a tragedy.”
Collard also commented on the me-too social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment that has seen women publicize allegations of sex crimes by powerful or prominent men. He said it’s not about whether victims should be believed.
“Her evidence was not preferred by this court. It was not picked over the evidence of Mr. Tress,” Collard said.
“The Crown could not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, and I think that should have been known in 2012.”
The complainant still works as an RCMP officer in a different province.
She testified that she didn’t want to make waves so she didn’t press for an investigation at the time. She told court she decided years later to report what had happened after hearing that Tress had been charged with sexual assault and other offences involving women in Red Deer.
Last year, Tress was found not guilty of sexual assault with a weapon, but convicted of breach of trust in relation to an on-duty encounter in May 2016. He was given a six-month conditional sentence.
Tress was also found not guilty of sexual assault and criminal breach of trust in relation to an alleged incident at the Red Deer RCMP detachment in July 2016. (rdnewsNOW, The Canadian Press)
Sheldon Spackman, rdnewsNOW, The Canadian Press
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