Sexual assault trial for N.L. police officer boils down to consent: prosecution
Published Wednesday, May 12, 2021 6:04AM ADT Last Updated Wednesday, May 12, 2021 7:01PM ADT
Douglas Snelgrove sits prior to the start of his trial at a St. John's school on Wednesday, September 16, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sarah Smellie)
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- Arguments concluded Wednesday in an emotional trial for a Newfoundland and Labrador police officer accused of sexually assaulting a 21-year-old woman in 2014 while on duty.
Crown prosecutor Lloyd Strickland told the 14-person jury they had three ways to convict Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. Carl Douglas Snelgrove of the sexual assault charge, and that they all came down to consent.
Jurors could determine she was too drunk to consent and that he knew it, he said, or that she was unconscious when he began having sex with her in her apartment, as she indicated in her testimony. They could also conclude that as an officer in uniform who drove her home in a police vehicle, Snelgrove knowingly used his position of authority to induce her to have sex with him, Strickland said.
"I realize it must be difficult to look upon a person and declare they're guilty," Strickland told the jury. "But if you do determine that, you are bound by oath to return that verdict."
Snelgrove sat a few feet to Strickland's left, his head up, watching as the prosecutor carefully and purposefully walked the jury through each scenario that could send him to jail. This is his third trial for the charge, following a successful appeal of a verdict and a subsequent mistrial.
The complainant testified on May 6, a day after the trial began, and broke down several times when pressed by defence lawyer Randy Piercey. "I just want this over," she said at one point, sobbing on the stand.
The woman said she encountered Snelgrove late at night on Dec. 20, 2014, after she had emerged from a downtown St. John's club in hopes of grabbing a cab home. She was too drunk to be out, she said, and wanted to go to bed.
Snelgrove was sitting in a police car just down the road and he rolled down his window and offered her a ride, she testified. She accepted, figuring "a police officer should be safer than a taxi driver," she told the jury.
She said she got home to find she was locked out but he helped her get inside. They kissed, she said, and then she sat down on her loveseat, too drunk to stand. "The next thing after that I recall is that I came to and none of my clothes were on and he was standing above me, having anal sex with me," she said.
The woman told the court she didn't intend to have sex with him, nor did she recall giving him consent. Piercey pressed her on that statement: "You can't say that you didn't agree, you can only say, 'I can't remember agreeing?"' he asked.
"Correct," she replied.
During his closing arguments Wednesday, Piercey said the woman's actions that night did not indicate she was too drunk to consent. He said she was able to give Snelgrove directions to her house, she remembered many details about the events leading up to the alleged assault, and that she was able to climb through a window when she arrived to find she was locked out.
"A lot of people wouldn't have gotten through that little tiny window stone cold sober," Piercey told the jury.
The woman's account of the night sometimes conflicted with the testimony given by other witnesses, and sometimes it conflicted with what she said in previous trials, Piercey said. But there is nothing to contradict or conflict with Snelgrove's account of the night, he said.
"The question is whether you are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt," he said. "If you have a reasonable doubt then you have to find him not guilty."
Snelgrove testified Monday the woman stepped in front of him when he tried to leave her home and began kissing him and taking off her clothes. He helped her remove his belt, he said, adding that she initiated the sex and consented to it.
She even invited him to stay, he said. "I just wanted to leave at that point," he told the court. "I said to her, 'No, I can't stay, I've got a call I've got to go to,' even though at that point, that wasn't the case. I was just using that as an excuse to get out of there."
He said she was "fully aware" of what was happening and he had no concerns about her sobriety or lack thereof.
Provincial Supreme Court Justice Vikas Khaladkar is expected to give the jury their deliberation instructions on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2021.