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NS woman who alleges gang rape sues British government

A lawyer leads three British sailors accused of sexual assault into court in 2015.
ANDREW VAUGHAN •CP
A lawyer leads three British sailors accused of sexual assault into court in 2015. ANDREW VAUGHAN •CP - The Canadian Press

A Nova Scotia woman who says she was gang raped by four British sailors is now suing the U.K. government for damages.

Four men were initially charged with sexually assaulting a young woman in barracks at 12 Wing Shearwater in April 2015. Charges were dropped against two and the others are scheduled to face trial later this year.

In a Supreme Court of Nova Scotia lawsuit filed Wednesday, the complainant, a 20-something university student at the time of the alleged incident, says she was sexually assaulted by members of the British Royal Navy who were in Halifax for exhibition hockey games against local personnel.

“It took a lot of courage for my client to report her sexual assault to the police and to proceed with a prosecution,” the woman’s lawyer, Michael Dull, told The Chronicle Herald.

“The criminal process over the last couple years has been trying, largely because of the criminal defence, which my client understands is being funded by the U.K government.

“That helped prompt my client to take civil action. If the U.K. finds it appropriate to pay for the criminal defence associated with its employees’ actions, then it is appropriate that it pay for the 

significant harms associated with the same actions.”

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

Dull, a lawyer with Valent Legal in Halifax, says his client, whose identity is protected by a publication ban in the criminal case, suffered harms and losses because of the alleged assault.

He said it was the U.K. government, the defendant in the civil suit, that provided the means and opportunity for its employees to come into contact with the plaintiff, making the defendant “vicariously liable for the sexual assault and battery perpetrated on (the plaintiff ) by its employees.”

The defendant, as a foreign state, is not immune from the jurisdiction of Nova Scotia courts, the statement of claim reads.

The plaintiff is seeking special damages, general damages, punitive and aggravated damages, prejudgment interest and costs.

While Dull would not disclose the amount his client is seeking, the statement of claim classifiesthe suit as exceeding $100,000.

Darren Smalley, 37, and Simon Radford, 33, are charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm and participating in a group sexual assault. Their trial is scheduled for September.

Charges were dropped against a third accused in December, after a judge threw out the man’s police statement because military police violated his charter rights to have access to legal counsel immediately and in private. Charges against a fourth man were dropped in April 2016 due to lack of evidence.

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