Former RCMP spokesperson Tim Shields leaves court Wednesday with one of his attorneys. (Katya Slepian photo)

UPDATED: Not-guilty verdict for ex-RCMP spokesperson Tim Shields

A former civilian employee had accused the former Mountie of sexually assaulting her in a bathroom

Former RCMP spokesperson Tim Shields has been found not guilty of one count of sexual assault.

Judge Patrick Doherty made the ruling at provincial court in Vancouver Wednesday morning.

“A criminal trial is not a credibility contest,” the judge cautioned the courtroom as he explained the reasoning behind his decision.

Doherty’s arguments focused on the reliability of the witnesses’ testimony, not their credibility, he said, adding that to judge the credibility of a sexual-assault complainant veers into a “myth and stereotype defence” that is not permissible in court.

In describing both witnesses, he said he found that the complainant “presented poorly as a witness”; that she was “combative” during cross-examination and did not always answer the questions.

Doherty said that Shields was largely a better witness, willing to at times concede points that were not in his favour, but that he was “evasive” on occasion.

“The issue that I must decide is whether Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Shields sexually assaulted [the complainant] by touching her sexually without her consent, or alternatively, whether the defence had an honest but mistaken belief in consent,” Doherty said.

The judge found that Shields did not use his position of authority to force the complainant into a detachment washroom.

“There is no evidence that [the complainant’s] consent was vitiated by virtue of Mr. Shields’ authority relationship over her,” Doherty said.

The complainant, a former civilian employee at the RCMP whose name is protected by a publication ban, alleged that Shields sexually assaulted her in a Vancouver RCMP headquarters bathroom in 2009. Shields’ lawyer, David Butcher, had painted the encounter as consensual.

There was no disagreement between Crown and defence that a sexual encounter occurred, Doherty noted.

“Counsel of behalf of Mr. Shields… submits that [the complainant] fabricated the sexual-assault allegations to advance a claim for compensation,” the judge said. “He submits that [the complainant] is a fraud and a liar.”

The complainant reported a sexual assault to police in 2015 and Shields was criminally charged in May 2016 with one count of sexual assault. In December 2016, the complainant settled a civil sexual-harassment claim against Shields and the RCMP.

Doherty said the complainant’s delay in reporting the incident did not play against her credibility.

He said that both the delay and the complainant’s friendly interactions with Shields post-encounter were “consistent” with that of a woman hoping to not jeopardize her career.

Doherty went over both sides’ versions of the day the bathroom encounter took place.

Shields had said that it started with friendly, flirtatious and sexually charged behaviour in his office before naturally moving into the bathroom.

The complainant had testified that she followed Shields in the bathroom unknowingly, as she would have followed anyone.

“I simply do not know who to believe on this point,” the judge said minutes before rendering his decision.

Doherty said both bathroom accounts – Shields’ that it was a consensual sexual encounter where the complainant was a “willing and eager participant,” and the complainant’s that she was “frozen,” scared and just wanted to get out – were plausible.

Earlier, Doherty noted that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and that it is Crown who must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any assault occurred.

He said that although the complainant’s recollection of what happened in the bathroom was trustworthy, her inability to remember what happened after Shields allegedly placed her hands on his genitals and asked her to perform oral sex on him caused the judge “some concerns about the reliability of her evidence regarding the bathroom incident.”

Defence alleged that after that, she “enthusiastically” took part, Doherty noted. When defence suggested that version of events, the judge said, the complainant told the court that if this occurred, “it was worse than (she) realized” and that “he forced her to do it.”

Doherty said the Crown did not adequately explain the gap in the complainant’s memory.

“There may be many reasons why [the complainant], as an alleged victim of sexual assault, would have such a gap in her memory,” said Doherty. “I certainly do not fault her for having memory gaps, but it is not for me to speculate why such a gap exists.”

BC Prosecution Service communications counsel Dan McLaughlin said in a media scrum outside court that there is no immediate decision by the Crown to appeal the judgment.

Shields and his legal team declined to comment on the trial following the verdict. The complainant did not attend court beyond the times she was called as a witness, and was not present for the judgment.

Just Posted

Minard sixth as banked slalom debuts at Paralympics

Spallumcheen wheelchair curler Ina Forrest denied bid for third career Paralympics gold

Rockies give it their all in final game

Rockies wrap up most successful season in years

Headed to provincials full of community pride

Bantams team represents East Kootenay at Provincials in Kitimat

A couch-surfing couple and a band of childhood friends to perform at High Notes Music Festival

Festival takes place March 23rd to 25th at Panorama Mountain Resort

BC Chamber comes with praise for local organization, boosts BC-wide message

Val Litwin promotes BC Chamber in talk to local members

Coffee Fest brewed to perfection

5th annual event last weekend in Invermere

Wartime Wednesdays

Local author Elinor Florence explores the stories of veterans

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Experts: Society has a role in trying to prevent domestic violence

Experts are speaking out following the murder of a woman and her son in Ontario

Progress on fixing Phoenix pay system backlog could be short-lived: Ottawa

Feds have said they won’t try to recover money overpaid until all outstanding issues are fixed

Northern lights chasers in Canada discover new type named ‘Steve’

Phenomenon linked to a powerful current created by charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere

Washington state backs B.C. in pipeline dispute

Governor Jay Inslee says he is ‘allied’ with the province on Trans Mountain expansion projection

SAY WHAT? Readers weigh in on high-speed rail to U.S.

B.C. to contribute $300,000 to a million-dollar business study on the proposed project

Most Read