Thursday, February 28, 2008

What It Means When A Whistleblower Won't Whistle

An ex-Cornwall, Ontario constable, Perry Dunlop, is at the center of a legal controversy related to child sex abuse cases in the mid 1990s.

From the Standard Freeholder:

Perry Dunlop will spend two more weeks behind bars while a Toronto court decides his punishment for not testifying at the Cornwall Public Inquiry. The Ontario Divisional Court refrained from sentencing the former city cop Wednesday and remanded him back into custody. [...]

"I did it for all the right reasons," he told Justices Lee Ferrier and Katherine Swinton. "I will never walk back into that Cornwall inquiry even if you put a gun to my head."

In 2000, Dunlop received an ethical courage award for the unauthorized revealing to the Children's Aid Society that the Alexandria-Cornwall Roman Catholic Diocese had been allowed to pay the alleged victim $32,000 and the criminal investigation ended. Because the leak was clearly unauthorized, the Cornwall police charged Dunlop for doing so. Dunlop was later cleared of wrongdoing.

A task force was formed in Cornwall after Dunlop's leak to investigate allegations of widespread child sex abuse. The results were mixed at best and only one person was convicted of a sex crime. Dunlop seems to believe this was because there was a conspiracy to protect child sex abusers. The problem with this theory is that even with the most skilled and ethical investigators, the outcome of child abuse cases can be iffy when there isn't a visibly mangled victim.

For example, a child sex abuse victim who reacts to abuse by being rebellious may be incorrectly seen as likely to lie about being abused. Those who understand sexual abuse know that disdain for authority can easily follow a deep betrayal by an authority figure, but the public at large from which the jury is selected may not be so informed.

An area where many cases break down is when there are any interactions between investigators and young alleged victims which are done in such a way that there can be a claim that the alleged victim could be making false statements in an attempt to provide the investigator with the right answer.

Questions such as, "Did he touch you between your legs?" can lead a suggestible child who was not touched between the legs to answer yes because that seems to be the answer which will please the adult. The effect of this possibility is to make truthful answers given by real victims questionable. This is why there is special training in how to question a child thoroughly without any leading questions.

Bad practices from well-meaning investigators can hopelessly compromise real crime victims' chances of seeing their perpetrators convicted and sentenced in proportion to the crimes committed against them. If those perpetrators are convicted of the appropriate crime bad practices can cause those convictions to be overturned on appeal.

With best practices in place on a specific case, juries may still feel there is reasonable doubt for numerous reasons. Real abusers can get away with their crimes with no help from anyone who has a desire to protect someone they know is a child abuser.

No matter what the skills and intentions were of the task force, Dunlop and his family felt harassed because of the reaction to his choices and actions which went against policy. He quit the Cornwall police force and moved with his family to British Columbia.

Now there is an active Cornwall Public Inquiry which is looking into the handling of these child abuse cases. These inquiries are about more than the past, they are also about the future.

Those who support Dunlop's refusal seem to be making the assumption that this inquiry is a personal attack on Dunlop and a defense of child sex abuse.

Others like Holly at Holly's Fight for Justice believe that inquiries serve an important purpose and that Dunlop should finish what he started by appearing before the inquiry and facing even the toughest questions about what he saw and his decisions and actions based on those observations.

She believes that if the investigative process in Cornwall, Ontario and elsewhere need to change but Dunlop won't speak to those critical issues because of his personal feelings then that hurts the type of crime victims Dunlop championed. These sex abuse and rape victims are often asked to endure cross-examinations more personal than any questions Dunlop will be asked during the inquiry. If a trained investigator says cross-examination is worse than having a gun held to his head then that sends a terrifying message to victims.

She also believes that the cost associated with Dunlop's continued refusal to testify reduces the funding available for other criminal justice services.

A man who identifies himself as Karol Karolak characterizes Holly's position in a much different light. He acknowledges that she is a rape survivor but then uses the trauma of rape to discredit her opinion that Dunlop should testify. This is demeaning not only to Holly but to all other rape and sexual abuse survivors -- even those Karolak claims to care about. Then he makes the illogical and unfounded claim that her belief that Dunlop should testify is caused by a disregard for male sexual abuse victims. From there he strays into a rant against homosexuals which makes homosexuality a stepping stone to same-sex pedophilia.

This line of reasoning makes no sense or heterosexuality would be considered a stepping stone to opposite-sex pedophilia and opposite-sex rape. This also does nothing to improve the criminal justice system and doesn't give any specific logical reasons why Dunlop should continue to refuse to testify.

By association, Karolak makes Dunlop seem like someone who may have taken actions because of homophobia and not because he wanted to see all sex abusers carefully and ethically investigated and prosecuted. If that is the case then Dunlop's continued refusal to testify at the inquiry, to the point of serving jail time, makes perfect sense.

Somehow I don't think that is the message Karolak meant to send.

Conspiracies and counter-conspiracies don't do any genuine crime victims any productive good. What is needed are effective systems in all jurisdictions so everyone's safety and rights are respected.

"He [Dunlop] keeps thinking that this is a criminal trial. He keeps thinking they should call the bad guys to testify," said [Lead commission counsel Peter] Engelmann. "I think it's unfortunately just a basic misunderstanding about what the inquiry is." [...]

[John] Swales [who served as a liaison between abuse victims and a London, Ont. law firm with standing at the inquiry] said while it "pains" him to see Dunlop in jail, the hoopla around his refusal to testify has diverted attention away from the real issue: exploring how the institutions failed sexual abuse victims.

If I understand this concept correctly, inquiries look at past mistakes which are within the government's control and look to find ways to eliminate those mistakes from future cases. If any of these inquiries are failing to do this then that process needs to be adjusted accordingly.

If victims of child sexual abuse are critically important to Dunlop then he should testify even if the process will be painful.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:06 AM   0 comments links to this post


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