Sexual Assault Charges Against Ex-Cadet Richards Stayed after Victim Withdraws


On Friday, a former cadet major, Kenneth Richards, aged 70, saw three counts of sexual assault charges against him, stayed by Ontario Court of Justice Judge Jennifer Woollcombe after the alleged victim withdrew from the case due to a comprehensive request by the defence for files, including those from her counsellor. Richards previously served with the Cadet Organizations Administration and Training Service (COATS).

Initial charges were filed against Richards by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Services in July 2021 but were later transferred to the civilian system for prosecution. In legal parlance, a stay implies the charges are held off, allowing the Crown up to 12 months to resume the case.

The Crown attorney, Robin Prihar, addressed the court saying she requested the stay in alignment with the victim’s wishes, basically due to the defence’s efforts to procure five sets of records under a Section 278 application of the Criminal Code. Such an application permits disclosure of a complainant’s personal files – medical or psychiatric – in sexual offence related cases.

Prihar pointed out the significant distress this process has been causing the alleged victim, specifically the Section 278 application which has intruded her access to support systems. The defence, represented by Alexa Ferguson, had been issuing subpoenas to five distinct record holders, to obtain these files. A hearing for this Section 278 application was scheduled on September 12th, wherein the defence would need to convince the judge of the relevance and evidentiary value of these records.

It came to light that the defence sought records dating from 2017 till present from the victim’s counsellor, and the Canadian Forces Sexual Misconduct Support and Response Centre, along with a second counsellor who was involved with her children as well as herself. Consequently, this move suspended the alleged victim’s counselling sessions and her involvement with the Support and Response Centre.

Identified by the alias “Cassandra,” she told reporters of her dread over the defence’s control over her records, opining they were obstructing her ability to reach out for support as everything could potentially be subpoenaed. Cassandra, who still associated with COATS, had lodged the original complaint back in 2017 with CFNIS against Richards, her superior within COATS. Although initially closed, the investigation was reopened in 2021 when Cassandra raised questions over the handling of the case.

Emotionally strained, Cassandra insisted that although a court’s validation was not necessary for her, carrying on with the case would inflict further trauma. Taking the matter up with the Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime, she raised concerns over Section 278 applications in assault cases, terming them as tools for defence lawyers to exert undue pressure on the complainants.

In her interaction with reporters, she stressed the unjust nature of such norms, questioning the fairness of permitting the accused access to personal records. While not commenting on individual cases, Federal Ombudsperson for Victims of Crime, Benjamin Roebuck acknowledged receiving similar complaints and emphasized finding a balance between the rights of the accused and the victims.


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