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$5.3M sex abuse suit filed against Victoria police, Esquimalt officers

A former informant alleges she was repeatedly sexually abused, allegations that were reportedly resolved or dismissed at the time of a 1995 inquiry.
The Victoria Police Department and four Esquimalt police officers have been served with a $5.3-million lawsuit claiming sexual abuse of a teen informant.

A woman who says she was sexually abused by Esquimalt police officers while acting as a teenaged informant is suing the Victoria Police Department and four officers for a total $5.3 million. 

The Victoria department is named as a defendant in the suit, as it amalgamated with the Esquimalt Police Department in 2003. Also named are officers Scott Malcolm Connors, Robert Bruce Cowick, Samuel Donald Devana and Kenneth Barrie Cockle. 

The plaintiff is listed as Jane Doe, born in 1972, according to a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Nov. 21. 

Publicity around the allegations and earlier police investigation and public inquiry is not new but the civil suit is. 

The Cowick and Cockle allegations were reportedly resolved before a 1995 inquiry and those against Connors and Devana were dismissed. 

The new claim said Doe’s involvement with the Esquimalt Police Department began when she was arrested in 1989 on six counts of theft. In late summer of 1989, Connors approached her and a friend, S.J., for information about a person possessing drugs. They declined but called later that day to provide the information. 

Soon, Doe was interacting with Connors regularly. 

“She trusted Connors, in his capacity as a police constable, to protect her and safeguard both her physical and emotional needs,” the claim said. 

Doe eventually became a paid Esquimalt Police Department informant, with Connors as her handler. Other officers, Devana and Cockle, had access to her informant services, court documents show. 

Doe alleges she was “subjected to an escalating pattern of sexual harassment and abuse” during her involvement with the Esquimalt Police Department. 

It started in May 1990, when Doe was with 13-year-old S.J. and ran into Connors by a pub, the claim said. She alleges Connors pulled open her shirt and looked down. Two months later, he allegedly asked if she was wearing a bra and pulled on the back of it. 

Meanwhile, Doe alleges Cowick solicited her to perform oral sex on him on four occasions. She claims Cockle started in 1992, by making inappropriate and unwelcome sexual remarks over the phone. 

In the summer of 1993, the claim said, Cockle, while on duty at the Esquimalt Police Department station, asked her to strip and expose her breasts as a gift to retiring Sgt. Jim Askew. 

“When Doe refused this request,” the claim said, “Cockle solicited Jane Doe to have oral sex with Sgt. Askew, offering to get her drunk if she complied with his request.” 

She believed her identity as an informant could be compromised if she refused, the claim said. 

In the fall of 1993, Doe attended Askew’s retirement party, with Cockle giving her numerous brandy shots, according to court documents. Doe approached a table of police officers and informed them that she was there to perform oral sex on Sgt. Askew, the claim said. 

When Askew declined, Cockle attempted to solicit her to return to the Esquimalt Police Department station to do a strip show, the claim said. 

Earlier that year, in March 1993, Cockle allegedly invited Doe for drinks with a dispatcher. When the dispatcher left, Doe alleges Cockle offered to drive her home. After several sexual advances, he exposed himself “before raping her on the ground outside of his vehicle,” the claim said. 

In October 1992, Doe asserts, she attended a club with officers, including Devana. She claims he subjected her to escalating “sexualized behaviour” before attempting to force her to perform oral sex. After a bouncer noticed, both were asked to leave. At that point, Devana allegedly asked her for a “quickie.” 

It was in May of 1992 that Doe told her probation officer she was an informant and had been sexually harassed and assaulted. The officer contacted then Deputy Chief Const. Graham Brown about the situation. Brown said a complaint would have to be filed, the claim said. 

Doe decided not to file a complaint, fearing her identity as an informant would be disclosed. 

By 1995, Doe had an emotional breakdown and disclosed the events to a therapist, who contacted the Victoria Police Department. She laid a complaint with the Victoria department, which started an investigation, finding she was honest and reliable and that her allegations corroborated. 

However, Esquimalt Police Department Chief Peter Marriott informed Doe he would not proceed with formal disciplinary action. 

After receiving Marriott’s decision, Doe filed a complaint with the B.C. Police Commission, which launched another investigation. 

Throughout this period, the officers remained on duty, according to the claim. 

In September 1995, Doe requested the Esquimalt Municipal Police Board conduct an inquiry. She sought to have it held in private to protect her identity but the board ruled she would testify in public. Options of testifying behind a screen with her voice altered were allegedly not offered. 

Meanwhile, the claim said, Doe began hearing rumours that Esquimalt Police Department officers were openly discussing her identity and role as an informant and the complainant in the inquiry. 

The suit said that the board could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Devana was guilty of sexual misconduct against Doe but added it did not believe Devana and the other officers were being completely truthful about the allegations. 

When it came time for the board to hear the charges against Connors, Doe could see him from behind the screen. The claim said he was smiling and laughing at her. 

“In this moment, Jane Doe experienced feelings of overwhelming and psychological terror,” the claim said. “Jane Doe abruptly ended her testimony and ended her participation in the inquiry. In the absence of Jane Doe’s testimony, the charges against Connors were dismissed.” 

The Times Colonist reported at the time that complaints against Cockle and Cowick were resolved before hearings. 

VPD spokesperson Cam MacIntyre said the department could not comment on an issue before the courts. 

“The incidents alleged in this claim pre-date the amalgamation of the Victoria and Esquimalt police departments and relate to alleged misconduct of members of the Esquimalt Police Department,” MacIntyre said in a statement to Glacier Media. “Any inquiries about this matter should be directed to the Township of Esquimalt.” 

However, the township is not named in the claim and has not been served any court documents, Mayor Barb Desjardins said. 

“We are certainly concerned about the allegations and will provide a response when and if we are contacted,” Desjardins said. “At this time, it is inappropriate to comment on a matter that is before the courts.” 

None of the allegations has been tested or proven in court.