The Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) has released results of an internal audit of its unfounded 2016 sexual assault occurrences. The comprehensive review was undertaken in response to last week’s Globe and Mail feature article examining the number of unfounded sexual assault occurrences reported by Canadian law enforcement agencies over a five-year period (2010-2014).
“The Halton Regional Police Service is committed to the safety and well-being of each member of the community we serve,” said Chief Stephen Tanner. “Our Service recognizes the severity of sexual assault crimes and investigates all reports thereof with the utmost respect for victims, and in accordance with provincial regulations and guidelines”.
A total of 57 unfounded sexual assault occurrences from 2016 were examined. All were determined to have been properly and thoroughly investigated. Unfounded is a Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) term that is one way for a police service to close an occurrence.
Unfounded does not mean the police do not believe a victim or person reporting. All reported incidents are fully investigated.
Of the 57 incidents examined, 15 (or 8.3 per cent) did not occur or could not have occurred as reported. In the remaining 42 cases (representing 74 per cent of all unfounded sexual assault occurrences) it was determined through the completion of thorough investigations that a criminal offence had not been committed.
In all criminal investigations there are facts in issue that must be present and proven to meet the Criminal Code requirements. In the aforementioned 42 incidents, the required elements to meet the definition of a sexual assault were not met, and therefore even if the other involved person(s) was or were known, charges could not be laid.
As a result of the review and in accordance with the recent recommendation of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) that all police services review practices around sexual assault investigations, the HRPS undertook an additional examination of existing internal policy and procedure. While found to be fully compliant with provincial mandates ensuring that all sexual assault investigations are carried out in a professional manner and in a way that best meets the needs of victims, the Service has made one revision: effective immediately, all incidents reported as a sexual assault will be reviewed by the Detective Sergeant of the Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Unit (CASA).
“Our Service is committed to the thoroughness of all criminal investigations and we pride ourselves in our victim-centered approach to supporting those impacted by crime,” said Chief Tanner. “We were honoured to have been recognized for our efforts in this area with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Award of Excellence in Victim Services in 2016.”
In addition to in-house victim support, the HRPS collaborates with, and seeks feedback from, several independent victim advocacy groups, including Sexual Assault & Violence Intervention Services (SAVIS).
“SAVIS and the Halton Regional Police Service work closely together to enhance working relationships by collaborating in training and in providing support to victims of sexual assault and sexual violence from a Survivor Approach Model,” said Alma Arguello, Executive Director of SAVIS. “The HRPS, with SAVIS’ input, plays an important role in investigating and supporting Survivors of sexual violence in our community. SAVIS provides the HRPS with critical training and timely information to assist them in their duties.”
Furthermore, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) conducts regular audits of all municipal police services in Ontario on a rotational basis. MCSCS is about to embark on its next series of audits. Chief Tanner and the Halton Regional Police Service invite the Ministry to audit all aspects of its policies and procedures relating to the conduct of sexual assault investigations in Halton.