News Local

South Simcoe police react to Globe story

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Andrew Fletcher

Andrew Fletcher

South Simcoe police are reviewing each sexual assault complaint received during the last five years and, once completed, will report the findings to their police board.

Deputy Police Chief Andrew Fletcher announced the review in light of a Globe and Mail newspaper story on the nearly 20% rate of sexual assault complaints that were determined by Canadian police forces to be unfounded.

“The review will not only look at the clearance of occurrences but will be an opportunity for us to review our processes to ensure that we are meeting standards and following best practices,” Fletcher said in a Feb. 9 release.

He said South Simcoe police have many competent and skilled investigators to handle these and other complex cases in the most professional manner possible.

“Having said that, we are all human and will from time to time make mistakes, but we have processes in place to capture them so that we can address any shortcomings,” said Fletcher, who will assume the role of South Simcoe police chief April 18.

The Globe and Mail story, published Feb. 4, says the national rate of unfounded sexual assault complaints is 19% and Ontario's rate is 25%.

A Feb. 11 followup to that story says South Simcoe's rate of unfounded sexual assault complaints is 52%, or that its five-year unfounded sexual assault rate was 99 out of 189 allegations.

South Simcoe police cover Innisfil and Bradford West Gwillimbury, an area with a population of 64,386.

The Globe's investigation found that, on average, one out of every five reports of sexual assault in Canada is dismissed as unfounded – meaning police don't think a crime took place or was attempted.

Since the initial story was published, the Globe says 32 police forces that serve 1,000-plus communities have launched probes into more than 10,000 recent sexual assault complaints.

On Friday, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police encouraged 'all police services to review practices around sexual-assault investigations', the Globe said.

Earlier in the week, Federal Public safety Minister Ralph Goodale said police forces should reassess how they manage sex-assault complaints.

“We want all victims of sexual assault or other serious crimes to have confidence in the South Simcoe Police Service and for the community to know that we take these matters seriously and are committed to utilizing whatever resources are necessary to conduct thorough and professional investigations,” Fletcher said.

His Feb. 9 release does not include a timetable of when the review will be complete.

The Edmonton Police Service states 'Sexual assault is defined as an assault of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of the victim. The Supreme Court of Canada held that the act of sexual assault does not depend solely on contact with any specific part of the human anatomy, but rather the act of a sexual nature that violates the sexual integrity of the victim.'

bbruton@postmedia.com