The defence for ex-Mountie Tim Shields asserted during closing arguments in court Tuesday that Shields’ sexual encounter with a complainant was consensual and not an abuse of trust and authority.
The trial, which has gone on for intermittent weeks at provincial court in Vancouver since June 7, involves an alleged sexual assault in the former RCMP headquarters in Vancouver in the fall of 2009.
Shields was originally suspended without pay by the RCMP in May 2015 and charged with one count of sexual assault in May 2016.
At the time, Shields was the RCMP E Division spokesperson, and the complainant, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, was a senior communications strategist.
Tim Shields (who has testified, and attended every day of his sex assault trial) is watching + listening to his defence lawyer assert that sexual encounter was consensual. Court room is about half full, mostly students watching the case— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) November 28, 2017
Both Crown and defence lawyer David Butcher agree that the sexual encounter occurred in an unisex bathroom on the main floor of the building on Heather Street in Vancouver.
They do differ on the date; the complainant alleged the assault happened in the fall of 2009, while Shields specifies April 29, 2009, as the date of the consensual sexual encounter.
“The interaction involved kissing, touching of [the complainant’s] breasts and rubbing of Mr. Shields’ exposed penis,” said Butcher.
Where they differed was in their clients’ recollection of the incident.
In both Butcher’s closing arguments and Shields’ earlier testimony, the defence painted the sexual encounter as initiated by the complainant.
Citing Shields’ testimony, Butcher told the court that the complainant had walked into Shields’ office, placed her hands on his chest and pushed him into a corner.
A long hug, “more sensual” than the ones the two usually shared, followed.
“It involved her hands rubbing up and down on his back,” said Butcher, noting that his client reciprocated. “Her breathing was audible and she had started soft, very quiet moaning noises through her nose.
“She said ‘you feel so good.’”
After a conversation that turned sexual, the complainant then asked Shields to walk her to her car, Butcher told the court.
He alleged the duo walked down the main stairs and, as they did, the complainant told Shields, “I never got my hug.”
Reading from court transcripts, Butcher laid out the alleged conversation that led to the sexual encounter in a unisex bathroom.
“I know. I never got my hug either,” Shields allegedly told the complainant. “I know where we can be alone without any interruptions.”
According to Butcher, the complainant proved eager and Shields led her to the unisex bathroom – the place where the sexual encounter occurred and where the defence and Crown version of events differed.
Shields described the encounter as consensual; so consensual that he did not feel any need to ask the complainant if everything was okay.
Butcher told the judge that the complainant’s version of events “made no sense.”
“There is no place or time where is a sexual assault is less likely to occur than on the main floor of a police station,” he said.
Abuse of power
Butcher argued that not only was the encounter consensual, but that Shields held no position of “traditional direct authority” over the complainant.
Both Crown and defence have stated that the complainant worked on the headquarters-relocation project, which involved moving RCMP headquarters from Heather Street to Green Timbers in Surrey. However, they differ on just how involved the complainant was in the department that Shields headed: the strategic communications division.
In arguing that Tim Shields was NOT in a position of authority over complainant in his sex assault trial, defence notes Shields' testimony that he "could not discipline promote or demote" her— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) November 28, 2017
Butcher repeatedly referred to the RCMP’s organizational chart, which showed an indirect reporting relationship between the two.
Crown counsel Michelle Booker has stated that the chart, as well as a performance review for the complainant filled out by Shields, establishes a direct reporting relationship.
Butcher denied that, pointing to Shields’ testimony that any reference to him as the complainant’s supervisor was in error.
When the judge told him that the definition of abusable position of authority was rather more broad than that, Butcher responded that if “an indirect, very loose, person-in-authority relationship… might be found to exist,” then that should only be a minor factor in considering the case.
Credibility of the complainant
Butcher refuted any allegations of assault, calling the complainant “a fraud, a liar, a perjurer” and characterizing her claim of sexual assault as an “after the fact confabulation,” arrived at with the help of lawyers, a psychiatrist and her husband.
The complainant, despite describing herself as financially self-sufficient, had filed for bankruptcy when she was 30, Butcher told the court. Her husband, who she began seeing in 2o12, had a business in financial peril.
He reminded the judge of Crown’s inability to establish a concrete date for a sexual encounter, while pointing to Shields’ ability to recall one.
Butcher pointed to several of what he described as weaknesses in the complainant’s case; her delay in filing a police report, her past financial troubles, her friendly demeanour towards Shields post-bathroom incident and a civil claim that she filed prior to speaking with police.
Tim Shields' defence points out that complainant compliments of accused, the hugs they shared, their friendliness post alleged assault point "broadly" towards no sexual assault, but alone are just "small parts of the whole" and just a "piece of the mosaic"— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) November 28, 2017
He was careful to repeatedly point out that although each reason alone could be considered as contributing to the “myth and stereotype” of how sexual assault victims should or should not react, that altogether, they helped paint a picture of a complainant who was more interested in the success of her civil suit than in helping police investigate the criminal case.
The complainant filed that civil suit against Shields in July 2014, approximately five years after the bathroom incident.
That claim was settled out of court in December 2016; Butcher asked for the contents of the settlement to be shown in court but Crown objected, successfully, to the reveal.
Butcher drew on multiple friendly email exchanges between the Shields and the complainant.
In some, she called Shields “a gift,” in others, she complimented his leadership at the RCMP.
When the judge pointed out that those could just be the actions of a woman trying to keep her job by being complimentary towards a superior, Butcher told him that this was the sign of a “dishonest and manipulative” person, focused on “her own advancement.”
Reading from court transcripts, Butcher reminded the judge that during Shields’ own testimony, he had admitted to hearing a ‘no’ from the complainant.
“He admits that there was a point in the encounter when [the complainant] said no when he reached to unzip her pants,” said Butcher. “There is evidence that he made further attempt to touch that part of [the complainant’s] body.”
Butcher called it a “candid” admission that was clearly “not self-serving,” telling the judge that it should stand as a point in favour of Shields’ credibility of a witness.
Closing arguments are expected to wrap up this week.