By The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s highest court has ordered a new trial for a former RCMP officer found guilty of sexually assaulting a nine-year-old girl.
In a decision released Thursday, a panel of three Appeal Court judges quashed Robert Dowd’s 2017 convictions of sexual assault and sexual interference.
He was accused of inappropriately touching the girl in 2014 while he was off duty at a campground in Manitoba’s Interlake region.
Dowd, who was sentenced in 2018 to one year in jail, denied the allegations in his testimony during the trial.
The Appeal Court said the trial judge called the officer’s denial “contrived” evidence and questioned his credibility without “a fair and orderly trial process.”
The court noted that Dowd’s version of events at the campground was never presented to the complainant during cross-examination.
“The rule requires that, where a party intends to later impeach a witness in a matter of significance … the witness must be confronted with the contrary position during cross-examination so that he or she may have the opportunity to respond to it,” the decision said.
The trial heard that the girl was with her father, brother and six other people, including Dowd, at a campfire hosted by the accused.
The girl testified the officer wanted to leave the campfire to look for a satellite in the sky. She said that when the two were alone, he inappropriately touched her.
Dowd denied the allegation in his testimony. He initially told police that he was never alone with the girl and testified that he took her to show her where the bathroom was inside his motorhome.
“His position was that the observation of him being seen alone with the complainant and returning to the fire pit … was a coincidence of him being near her while he was doing something else and she was returning from using the motorhome’s bathroom,” the Appeal Court said.
Dowd previously appealed his sentence and conviction to the Court of Queen’s Bench, but it was dismissed.
He was granted leave to appeal to the higher court “on the ground that the appeal judge failed to recognize the procedural error,” the Appeal Court said.
“An accused person must receive a fair trial, one which satisfies the public interest in getting at the truth, while preserving basic procedural fairness to the accused.”
— By Daniela Germano in Edmonton