Closing submissions were presented in provincial court on Thursday in a rape trial finally coming to a conclusion after a long five years in the making.
The case is a sexual assault charge against a male nurse who allegedly raped his female fellow nurse co-worker on the bleachers at Chilliwack Secondary School in the early hours of July 18, 2018.
Defence counsel for Ruppreet Singh Pawar focused the conclusion of his case on the reliability of the alleged victim, questioning her memory, the fact that she was taking a prescription sedative, and the fact that she had self-harmed in the past.
Lawyer Brij Mohan explained the difference between credibility and reliability, suggesting a witness who has no credibility is also unreliable, but just because a witness comes off as credible, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily reliable.
“A credible witness might give unreliable evidence,” Mohan said. “It is my humble submission that there are serious concerns with (the victim’s) reliability.”
The victim can’t be named because of a publication ban.
Two other elements of the case Mohan focused on that he said should lead to reasonable doubt, is the lack of male DNA evidence found on the victim and the fact that there was some surveillance footage at CSS but none that showed the two at the bleachers.
“If you would find a decision of guilt, you would be saying you can put aside both the lack of DNA results and the lack of surveillance footage,” Mohan told Judge Andrea Ormiston.
“If the crown cannot prove its burden, that is not saying a crime did not happen, it is saying you cannot find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”
Crown counsel Aaron Burns, on the other hand, called it an overwhelming case of guilt, arguing that “the evidence presented can only lead to one conclusion, that Mr. Pawar sexually assaulted (the victim).”
The two nurse co-workers worked at a residential care home in Abbotsford. Pawar was switching to a night shift and looked to do an informal orientation with the alleged victim.
The two had significant back and forth texts on the night of the alleged sexual assault. The victim, who lives in Chilliwack, kept asking Pawar to call her to arrange to meet for the orientation. Instead, Pawar kept avoiding the subject and repeatedly was texting about other things.
Then he told her that he was on his way to Chilliwack from Abbotsford. She suggested they meet at the Tim Hortons on Yale Road, but Pawar insisted he wasn’t dressed suitably for that.
“He doesn’t feel comfortable going to Tim Hortons, but he does feel comfortable meeting a female colleague in the middle of the night,” Burns said of this unusual fact.
Eventually she decided they could meet at the CSS track because it was near her house. She eventually testified that he at first grabbed her hand, and she pulled away. Then he grabbed her head and kissed her. Not long after that, they were back at the bleachers where she testified that he put his hands under her shirt, pulled her pants down and tried to rape her.
He failed at first, stopped, and she was so terrified that he would kill her, that she put her hand on his shoulder and said “sorry.” Then he pushed her down again and raped her on the bleachers, she testified.
As part of the evidence put forth regarding her truthfulness, Burns pointed to the victim’s personality and mood. Before the night she was a happy person, chatting daily with her good friend who lives in another city. After this night, everything went downhill.
“Something terrible happened that night that changed everything,” Burns said.
He added that in a message heard in court when she called a friend, “her voice sounded like her very soul had been penetrated.”
Burns also pointed to her two days on the witness stand and her consistency regarding what she said happened. There were some elements of the incident five years ago that she could not recall, but generally her recall was good.
“She is consistent with her level of detail,” Burns said of the interactions leading up to the alleged rape.
“She is an nurse. She is trained to deal with these kinds of levels of detail. This is a sophisticated person. Not a person who is unravelling.”
After final submissions on Thursday, Judge Ormiston adjourned the case until June 6 to fix a date for her decision.
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