Appeal: Article December 17, 2008

‘I went through this . . . to heal’

Marian Evans was awarded $215,000 plus legal costs for a 1979 attack in which she was detained and assaulted by a Toronto police officer.
Woman vows to fight for ‘what is right’ after police appeal ruling in officer’s sex attack

Dec 17, 2008 04:30 AM
Betsy Powell

Marian Evans says she had expected to lose and wind up “financially devastated” when she sued Toronto police for an assault committed by a former officer almost 30 years ago.
But she says it was never about money.

“I went through this process to get the truth … to heal basically,” she said yesterday, sitting in a midtown coffee shop.

“It was so important for me to figure out for my own good. I couldn’t move forward.”

Following a civil trial, Ontario Superior Court Justice Sandra Chapnik last month awarded Evans $215,000 plus legal costs, and said the Toronto Police Services Board should pay because it was “vicariously responsible.” John David Sproule, a former constable, was also ordered to pay $25,000 in punitive damages.

The court-ordered award is believed to be one of the largest against Toronto police. Evans’ lawyer, Susan Vella, hailed the ruling as “very important for women.”

Last Friday, the board filed a notice of appeal. Despite the setback, and the prospect of having to borrow even more money to pay her legal bills, Evans, 54, says she will continue to “fight for what is right.” That means refusing to accept any offers to settle, just as she has done since launching her lawsuit in 2002.

“I’m actually a stronger person than they think,” she said.

Chapnik, whom Evans praised as “a picture of class,” wrote in her Nov. 12 judgment that Evans “was subject to an admittedly outrageous and despicable sexual assault.”

In the morning hours of Jan. 7, 1979, Sproule, who was in uniform, stopped Evans, then 24, as she was driving alone on Danforth Ave. He detained her, drove her to a secluded area and tried to grab her breast and kiss her. She complained and he was charged with indecent assault. After pleading guilty, he was fined $1,000 and quit the force.

The incident was a closed book, something never discussed in the Scarborough home where she lived with her parents.

“I was left to deal with it on my own terms so the only way I could deal with it was to let it go as much as I could and it festered over the years.”

She went from someone who had grown up in a happy and “normal but strict environment” to living a chaotic life that saw her, for a period, living in rooming houses.

After years of blaming herself for what she describes as often erratic and irrational behaviour, she started to see a psychiatrist in 2001. With the benefit of counselling, she began to realize the impact the assault had on her life and, in 2002, she began legal proceedings. She was well aware she was long outside the four-year limitation period under the Limitations Act.

“It was understood, but the fight was more important to me than being concerned about that.”

The board, in its notice of appeal, is asking the Ontario Court of Appeal to set aside the trial decision and dismiss the claim because it was initiated 23 years after the assault took place. The notice also states the judge “erred in the application of the law regarding vicarious liability as it related to the Toronto Police Services Board.”

A mediation session in 2003 was the first time she had seen Sproule since 1979. He lives in Northern Ontario and did not appear at the trial.

“I could not look at that man’s face,” she said, covering her own face with her hand. Nor was she able to speak when asked to state her name. “I didn’t want anything to do with this man. I didn’t want him to hear my voice … So I was quite pleased when he didn’t show up at trial.”

Evans is trying to “rebuild her life.” She works freelance in the book publishing industry and is writing her memoirs.

“It’s been a very, very long time for me and slowly coming together but it’s really hard,” she says tearily. She says she still gets frightened when she sees police cars.

Her 23-year-old son Adam has been the “angel” on her shoulder. She started to cry yesterday recalling how, after the judge’s ruling, he hugged her and told her he was proud of what she had done.

“I’m willing to go through this, I’m very willing to go through this,” she said.

“I can’t run – I have to face it. The only thing that matters to me is my son. As long as he’s all right I can get by, I’m happy.”

Reproduced with permission – Torstar Syndication Services

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