Saskatoon police invite advocates to review closed sexual assault cases

A new Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) program aims to bring independent advocates to review closed sexual assault cases.

The process is in partnership with the Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre (SSAIC) where advocates will review sexual assault investigations by SPS that did not lead to charges.

The goal is to help police identify any issues or concerns related to a person’s case in the investigative process that could be explored before deciding to close the file.

Supt. Patrick Nogier said while officers are trained to be aware of trauma, there are certain things they need to be aware of when taking care of victims — and questions they might not have thought of.

A team of people from the SSAIC will have around three days to review closed adult sexual assault cases. Advocates will be reviewing cases quarterly and are already reviewing 47 for the first three months of the year.

“We know that we have to have broad shoulders when it comes to receiving feedback, some of it may be positive, some of it may be negative,” Nogier said.

According to a news release from SPS last week, sexual assaults make up a large portion of the criminal offences in Saskatoon. The unit says there were 408 reports of sexual assault in 2020 and 453 last year. Of the reports in 2021, 126 led to charges.

“We get a look at their statement, we can see their interviews, we can look at other evidence brought and the goal is for (that) we can bring that perspective to them,” said SSAIC executive director Faye Davis.

Davis says in some cases, advocates may recommend police reopen a case to see if more investigating can be done or if looking at a different perspective will lead them in a different direction that could bring enough evidence to charge someone.

“We might also identify barriers, things that are going on that aren’t within our control or theirs (Saskatoon police) but are further up the justice process,” she said.

Davis says she hopes survivors will have a better process when reporting their case and have more faith in coming forward to the police.