A 54-year-old B.C. man who was raped as a teen while on a court-mandated tour of a notorious Burnaby prison has been awarded at least $175,000 in damages.
The ruling came down in the B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday, in a suit that named the Province of B.C. and a former prison guard.
The victim, identified only as B.E.S. because he was minor at the time, was being taken on a “scared straight” tour of the now-shuttered Oakalla prison — part of a parole sentence for a break and enter he participated at age 13 or 14.
The purpose of the tour was meant to expose B.E.S. to the consequences of criminal life and influence him to live a life on the right side of the law.
Oakalla in the late 1970s was packed with inmates, with deteriorating conditions and a volatile mix of inmates convicted of small offences and hardened criminals awaiting trial.
One former inmate described it as “just a s—hole,” and a “dumping ground for B.C.”
When B.E.S arrived at the prison for his tour, the court heard he was handed off to a guard who he said took him to a jail cell with five inmates in it.
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He told the court the guard shoved him into the cell with the inmates and locked the door, then told him that the inmates would show him what prison life was like.
The court heard that the inmates tried to make B.E.S. perform oral sex on one of them, and that three of them then raped him while the guard laughed.
B.E.S. told the court that after the assault there was blood on the floor, and that the guard told him “That’s what happens to little f—ers like you,” and, later, that “Nobody’s going to believe you.”
The court heard that in the years after the assault B.E.S began using marijuana, cocaine and alcohol.
According to the ruling, he lost friends, began to suffer from low-self worth and tried suicide four times — including an attempt at “suicide by cop” in 2017 when he called 911 and reported himself as a “man with a knife” in a parking lot.
In her ruling, Madam Justice Jennifer Duncan said she found B.E.S.’s account of the assault credible, noting that he recalled details consistent with the organization of Oakalla and its inmates at the time.
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She found that the attack left him with flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty with sexual functioning and intimacy, PTSD and substance abuse disorders.
“I find that B.E.S. has suffered substantial psychological difficulties as a result of the assault,” she wrote.
“The sexual assault of B.E.S. was a single event, but it was brutal and I accept that it continues to have an impact on his day-to-day functioning well into adulthood.”
However, Justice Duncan rejected B.E.S.’s claim that former guard Roderic David MacDougall was the officer who facilitated the assault.
While MacDougall had been convicted of other sexual assaults, Justice Duncan ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to prove he was the officer in this case.
“From the evidence, it is apparent that B.E.S. became aware of Mr. MacDougall through a counsellor he was seeing. B.E.S. candidly agreed that he ‘assumed’ Mr. MacDougall was the escort officer, based on information from his counsellor,” reads the ruling.
From the archives: 13 inmates overpower guard and escape from Oakalla
Justice Duncan also rejected B.E.S’s claim that the province was negligent in his case.
“The foregoing features of a supposedly educational program are shocking in today’s context, where there is a heightened awareness that sexual assault in general, and against children in particular, is an insidious social problem,” reads the ruling.
“But I cannot find from the evidence adduced that the Province had the requisite foresight of the risks involved in the youth tour program to be found liable in negligence.”
Justice Duncan awarded B.E.S. $125,000 in non-pecuniary damages and a further $25,000 for the cost of future care.
The province, however, may end up having to pay out more, as she deferred special and punitive damages pending a decision on liability.
Counsel was given 30 days to schedule further hearings on those damages.
-With files from Jon Azpiri