Crown and defence took sides on Wednesday on whether or not an alleged victim of years of sexual abuse should have some four-legged support on the witness stand.
The subject of the application in provincial court in Chilliwack by Crown was Caber, a yellow lab who was Canada’s first Intervention K-9, and for the last two years has worked to calm and comfort hundreds of people in crisis, during police investigations and in courthouse appearances.
The case at bar is against David Kuntz-Angel who faces 12 counts dating back from between 2006 and the end of 2017. He is accused of grooming the main complainant from the age of eight to 19, when she complained to police last year. She is 20 now.
The unusual Kuntz-Angel is known in Chilliwack and in various communities across Canada for his compulsion to pretend he is David Lee Roth, the former leader singer of Van Halen.
Indeed it was while on the lam for several months, that his obsession with David Lee Roth led to his arrest, as he went into the Long & McQuade store in both Chilliwack and Abbotsford and told staff he was the American rock singer.
That led to his arrest and during a subsequent bail hearing in January he was denied bail.
Crown counsel Sandra Di Curzio brought the application to Judge Robert Gunnell in provincial court on March 21 to have the main witness against Kuntz-Angel testify with Caber and his handler, Delta Police Victim Services Coordinator Kim Gramlich, by close-circuit TV (CCTV).
Di Curzio said the alleged victim is very scared of Kuntz-Angel, and the CCTV and Caber will help her give accurate testimony.
“If she has to see him in court, she does not feel she can tell the judge what happened,” Di Curzio said.
“She needs to be able to give full and candid accounts.”
The use of CCTV for underage victims is presumptive in the criminal code, but since the woman is 20 – and even though most of the alleged crimes took place while she was under 18 – Crown had to make the application.
Kuntz-Angel’s lawyer Sarah Rauch said they opposed the application overall, although the opposition was less about Caber than it was about the CCTV.
Rauch argued the application “interferes too much with the truth-finding mission of the court,” and that having the witness present in the courtroom was essential to test her credibility, which may form the crux of Kuntz-Angel’s defence.
“He disagrees with everything that this witness will say,” Rauch said.
Di Curzio responded that testifying by CCTV will do nothing to stop the truth-finding mission, but was simply about providing a buffer for a vulnerable witness.
As for Caber, he made is first appearance in BC Supreme Court in June 2016 sitting at the feet of a child witness in a sexual assault case. In 2013 he began accompanying witnesses to courthouses for interviews with prosecutors, and since 2015 he has supported two young witnesses by sitting at their feet while they testified in sexual assault trials or hearings in Provincial Court in Surrey.
In a posting on the provincial court’s website, Gramlich reported at that time there were 17 accredited Canine Assisted Intervention (CAI) dogs working in police agencies and child advocacy centres across Canada – in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec.
“Caber continues to prove how valuable the unconditional care of a canine can be to a vulnerable witness,” Gramlich said. “His remarkable behaviour in court is thanks to his exceptional assistance dog training at [Pacific Assistance Dogs Society].”
As for whether Caber will be allowed in the Kuntz-Angel case, Judge Gunnell did not decide on the application in court on March 21 but put it over to his next appearance, likely on March 26.