27 Years in Prison, and Innocent

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – A man jailed indefinitely in 1983 as a “dangerous offender” for 10 sexual assaults he did not commit sued the Canadian and British Columbia governments and three Vancouver police officers for false arrest, false imprisonment and “institutional indifference.”

Canadian prisoners can be given indefinite sentences “if it is shown that there is a significantly high risk that they will commit future violent or sexual offences,” according to the Canadian Public Safety department website.
     Ivan Henry’s convictions were quashed by the B.C Court of Appeal in 2010.
     Vancouver police arrested him in May 1982, two months after he moved to the Vancouver neighborhood of Marpole with his ex-wife and two daughters.
     From November 1980 to June 1982, more than 20 women were sexually assaulted in the area, under similar circumstances. The perpetrator entered ground-floor apartments, ambushed sleeping women with a knife and sexually assaulted them.
     Another suspect, identified only as D.M., lived on the same block as Henry and “resembled the plaintiff in appearance,” according to the complaint in B.C. Supreme Court.
     “He had a history of late-night sexual predatory behavior in that neighbourhood and in the other Vancouver neigbourhoods where the sexual assaults occurred,” the complaint states.
     Henry says police arrested him and made him stand in a line-up, where the decoy suspects included several plainclothes police officers who looked nothing like him. He adds that he was forcibly restrained while victims were trying to identify their attacker.
     “The line-up made it abundantly clear that the plaintiff was the VPD suspect,” the complaint states.
     Around the same time, the police arrested the other suspect twice, once for trespass by night as he lurked near a home in the same neighborhood as a victim, and once for breaking and entering and theft at a house six blocks from another victim.
     Henry was jailed pending trial in August 1982 and not released until June 2009. Representing himself for much of the proceedings, Henry testified in his own defense, but was convicted after prosecutors allegedly refused routine disclosure requests and exploited his ignorance of judicial proceedings.
     Prosecutors knew he “was an unsophisticated litigant who had trouble following procedural and evidentiary rules,” the complaint states. “It was also apparent to them that he struggled, and sometimes failed, to use the complainant statements that had been disclosed to him, and the preliminary hearing transcripts, to elicit evidence that would undermine the reliability of the trial complainants’ identification of him as their attacker.”
     The sexual assaults with the same modus operandi continued in the area until 1988, while Henry says he exhausted efforts for post-conviction disclosures and appeals.
     While some evidence, including sperm samples, had been destroyed, police were able to pin a few of the assaults on D.M. after reopening the investigation in 2002. D.M. pleaded guilty in 2005 to three sexual assaults and was sentenced to 5 years in prison, the complaint states.
     “In two of the three sexual assaults to which D.M. pleaded guilty in 2005, he used a towel to hinder his victim’s ability to identify him,” the complaint states. “D.M. had a towel in his possession when … he was arrested outside of a residence in Marpole at 2:53 a.m. on May 17, 1982.”
     After D.M.’s conviction, a special prosecutor was appointed to review Henry’s convictions. Henry’s appeals were unopposed by the government and the appellate court found that “no properly instructed jury acting judicially could reasonably have rendered a guilty verdict on any of the counts.”
     Henry seeks damages and a trust award for his two daughters, who were children at the time of his arrest.
     “As a result of his wrongful conviction and incarceration, they were effectively deprived of a father and of the benefits of a father’s love, guidance and affection,” the complaint states. “They furthermore undertook considerable efforts over many years to assist in the reopening of his appeal, and to bring about his vindication.”
     Defendants include the B.C. Government, the Attorneys General of Canada and British Columbia, the City of Vancouver and police officers William Harkema, Marilyn Sims and Bruce Campbell.
     Henry is represented by Cameron Ward, Marilyn Sanford and David Layton with A. Cameron Ward & Company.

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