London, Ont. police report shows charges in fewer than half of reported sexual assaults

Det. Sgt. Katherine Dann oversees the investigations of sexual assault and child abuse. Ben Harrietha/980 CFPL

Less than 40 per cent of alleged sexual assaults reported to London, Ont., police since 2019 have led to charges, according to a police report presented to the London Police Services Board Thursday.

The report was released this week in response to an inquiry from the board for information about the 2023 sexual assault investigation report, which spans back five years, and the victim advocate review program.

Statistics in the report show that the number of sexual assaults reported to London police has risen steadily since 2019, with 586 being reported in 2023.

“The number of women being sexually assaulted is not being reduced, it is growing,” says police board vice-chair Megan Walker.

“You can see that growth pattern in the statistics from year over year and that’s a sad reflection, which tells me we have a lot more work to do in this area.”

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Around 32 per cent of victims declined to proceed with charges over that five-year period, with a high of 36.2 per cent in 2022.

Det. Sgt. Katherine Dann, who oversees the five detectives and six detective constables who investigate allegations of sexual assault and child abuse, says there are various reasons people choose not to proceed with charges.

“I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard from a victim that they’re reporting to protect other women,” Dann said.

“They want the police to know what happened, and they want the offender to know that they’ve reported to the police, but they’re not interested in proceeding to the courts.”

Dann adds that because there’s no statute of limitations in Canada, sexual assaults can be reported at any time and charges can be laid if evidence is sufficient.

Around 25 to 35 per cent of the reported sexual assaults lacked sufficient evidence to proceed with charges, however that number has fallen steadily since 2021.

“The victim is not interested in speaking to us … without that formal statement, there’s really not much we can go on,”

“We do have cases where the suspect cannot be identified, we just don’t have enough to identify the suspect, that would be considered insufficient evidence to proceed.”

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A number of allegations still remain under investigation or have been resolved through other means, including the death of a suspect, the report states.

The report offers several reasons for the increase in reported sexual assaults, including population growth, the #MeToo movement, and “enhanced confidence and trust in the London Police Service.” It concludes that sexual assaults continue to be under-reported.

The violence against women advocate case review program was launched in 2018, after a 2017 review of sexual assault investigations coded as “unfounded” between the years of 2010 and 2016.

“The purpose and scope of the program is to ensure that best practice responses to sexual assault reports improve the effectiveness of the investigative process, assist with the apprehension of offenders and provide the proper level of service and respect to sexual assault complainants,” Dann said.

While the program has not yet reopened a case, Walker says the review team is “absolutely critical for accountability.”

“It’s critical for women feeling safe and secure and coming into rapport and it’s critical in making sure that there would be no wrong door a woman could enter to disclose.”


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