Ex-RCMP Insp. Tim Shields’ “mechanical” and detailed recollection of a sexual encounter in an RCMP bathroom more than eight years ago is suspect, Crown said during closing arguments Wednesday.
Shields was charged with one count of sexual assault in May 2016. His trial has been running intermittently at provincial court in Vancouver since June.
The complainant, whose name is protected by a publication ban, alleges that Shields sexually assaulted her in an RCMP headquarters bathroom in the fall of 2009.
Both Crown and defence agree that the incident took place in 2009; where they differ is on the date of the incident and whether consent was given.
“[The complainant’s] unshaken evidence is that she did not consent,” said Crown counsel Michelle Booker.
Shields alleges that the sexual encounter was consensual and took place on April 29, 2009.
“They are diametrically opposed versions of events,” Booker said.
‘Carefully crafted narrative’
In court Wednesday morning, Crown attacked Shields’ testimony, calling it “too rehearsed” and “self-serving.”
“He used the same phraseology and terminology over and over again,” Booker said.
Reading from court transcripts of Shields’ testimony, she pinpointed what she called his “mantra,” a phrase he repeated multiple times throughout his time on the stand.
Whether over email, in conversation or through physical contact, they went from “friendly to flirty to sexualized,” Booker said, noting that at each step along the way, Shields was careful to paint a picture where the complainant acted and he reacted.
Crown attacks what she calls Tim Shields' "carefully crafted narrative" and repeated "mantra" of a relationship w/ the complainant that went from "friendly to flirty to sexual." Says it's too prepared, too rehearsed and should paint Shields as not credible.
— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) November 29, 2017
“It’s a rehearsed rendition of [the complainant] as the aggressor,” Booker said, reading Shields’ testimony of an office encounter that took place the day of the bathroom incident.
“’She advances towards me. She was pushing me into a very private place. I went along with it. Her hands were rubbing up my back. I reciprocated.’
“She is making every move and he’s reciprocating. In the office. On the staircase. ‘She touched my hand. She touched my hand again… we looked at each other and she said, ‘let’s do it.’’”
She questioned Shields’ ability to recall the exact date of the bathroom encounter and give a “step-by-step” accounting of what took place.
“More than eight years after the incident, the accused was able to pinpoint the particular afternoon when he says the bathroom incident occurred,” said Booker.
“’She made soft moaning noises. Her hands went up my back. She pulled my neck and head in tight.’”
Booker questioned how Shields was able to recall the bathroom incident in such detail while providing only broad strokes for the rest of his interactions with the complainant.
“Either the accused has convinced himself that this is the way it occurred, or he has fabricated a version of events that he understands would be required for consent.
“It defies belief.”
In a reply to Booker’s closing arguments, defence lawyer David Butcher questioned what he viewed as a double standard between Crown’s assessment of credibility for the accused and the complainant.
“Depending on our perspective… we can say things like Mr. Shields was consistent in his evidence throughout and throughout and therefore he had a rehearsed mantra,” Butcher said.
“But [the complainant] was consistent in her evidence throughout and that is a hallmark of credibility.”
Myth and stereotype
Booker took aim at Butcher’s “mosaic of facts” that the defence lawyer repeatedly referred back to in seeking to convince the judge that consent was given.
In his closing arguments on Tuesday, Butcher pointed to several of what he described as weaknesses in the complainant’s case, including her delay in filing a police report, her friendly demeanour towards Shields after the bathroom incident and a civil claim that she filed prior to speaking with police.
Booker cited case law and past Supreme Court decisions, telling the judge that he should not consider these factors in determining whether the complainant consented to Shields’ advances.
Butcher had acknowledged throughout his arguments that, taken one at a time, each factor should not sway the judge, but that taken together, they should paint a picture.
“Myth and stereotype are impermissible when adjudicating cases of sexual assault, because we know they are not true,” Booker said. “They deny justice to victims (of) sexual assault.”
"Myth and stereotype are impermissible when adjudicating cases of sex assault… because we know they are not true," Crown tells the judge during Tim Shields' sex assault trial
— Kat Slepian (@katslepian) November 29, 2017
Booker took issue with Butcher’s statement that nowhere was a sexual assault less likely than in a bathroom in a police station with RCMP officers within earshot.
She pointed out that there was no disagreement that a sexual encounter had occurred, only that it had been consensual, and that if a consensual sexual encounter was able to happen undetected, so could a possible assault.
In a reply to Booker’s closing arguments, Butcher noted that he was not maintaining that an assault could not happen in an RCMP bathroom and merely that if Shields was planning to commit an assault, it was improbable that he would choose a location so out in the open.
Defence is to submit their final replies to Crown’s closing arguments in the coming days.
A date for the verdict will be set on Friday and the judge hopes to make his decision before the end of the year.