The Alberta man, whose identity cannot be disclosed, was acquitted after being convicted of sexually assaulting his stepson in 1995 and jailed for eight years. The stepson later admitted lying about the assault.
On Monday, the Alberta Court of Appeal released its decision in the case of R. v. D.R.S. The court found if a new trial was held, it was more probable than not D.R.S. would be acquitted. The three justices directed a verdict of acquittal on the sexual assault and other related charges.
In 1995, D.R.S. was charged with offences pertaining to the sexual assault of the 9-year-old son of his common law wife. The boy testified at both the preliminary hearing and trial that D.R.S. had sexually abused him. Under cross examination, the stepson denied he had ever recanted his allegations and maintained his stepfather had assaulted him. D.R.S. testified at trial denying the assaults. He was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. An appeal to the Alberta Court of Appeal was dismissed.
At the time the charges arose, the 9-year-old's parents were involved in a custody dispute. In 2000 he went to live with his mother and after moving in with her, he recanted the previous allegations he made against D.R.S. The boy said his father used threats to get him to say his stepfather sexually assaulted him, something the father later denied. After his recantation, D.R.S. applied to the Minister of Justice for a review on the grounds there was a miscarriage of justice.
Under section 696.1 of the Criminal Code, anyone who has been convicted can apply to the Minister of Justice for a review. If the Minister believes there is some merit to the application, he or she can appoint a Special Commissioner to look into the matter and report back. The Minister then has the power to send the case to the appropriate court of appeal for a decision or for an opinion.
The investigation into the conviction of D.R.S. found that on the basis of evidence before the Special Commissioner, the reasonable inference was that the allegations were false and the later recantations were credible and worthy of belief.
Prosecutors argued before Alberta Court of Appeal that D.R.S. should be given a new trial rather than being acquitted outright. One of the reasons the court gave for directing the acquittal was that D.R.S. had not only served his sentence but served every minute of the eight years. The court noted D.R.S. was denied parole on the grounds the parole board believed he would re-offend because he denied his "deviancy" and refused to accept treatment.
CBC reports D.R.S. is back with his common law wife and is on good terms with his stepson.