Lawyer for Edmonton man charged in sexual assault of girl files Police Act complaint

Wade Stene, 37, is charged with kidnapping and sexual assault of a child. Supplied by EPS
A Police Act complaint has been filed against the Edmonton Police Service after it issued a public warning about the release of Wade Stene, which was followed by protests around the house he was living in and “threats to [do] significant harm,” according to Stene’s lawyer.

On March 10, a young girl was walking home in the area of 144 Street and 110 Avenue when she was approached by someone in a vehicle she didn’t know.

The girl was pulled into the vehicle and sexually assaulted before being dropped off nearby, police said.

Stene, 37, has been charged in connection to the incident but was released on bail earlier this month.

READ MORE: Man accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting young girl out of jail, Edmonton police warn

While the Edmonton Police Service regularly issues warnings about sex offenders who are released, it took the unusual step last week of issuing a warning related to someone whose case has not yet been tried.

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Police also let the public know he would be living in McQueen — the same neighbourhood where the assault took place.

Since then, groups have been gathering in the McQueen neighbourhood, asking for the reversal of the bail decision, with many holding signs demanding protection for victims of sexual assault.

On Friday, police took another unusual step and issued a post saying that vigilante justice will not be tolerated.

The Police Act complaint, filed Thursday, demands action be taken by the Edmonton Police Service and Chief Dale McFee.

It was filed by lawyer Mark Jordan on behalf of his client, Stene, and Stene’s mother.

The complaint says the public warning issued by the EPS “undermined the role of courts in our society and was willfully or negligently false.”

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“A superior court judge determined that Mr. Stene should be released, notwithstanding the considerations in section 515(1)(b) of the Criminal Code… therefore, the duty to warn should not have been triggered.”

The complaint also says the public warning, shared on the EPS Facebook page, generated comments that included “threats to cause significant harm, including death, to Mr. Stene. Some of the posts even included the address of where it is believed he is living at.”

The complaint outlines specific examples of comments and behaviours allegedly experienced by Stene’s mother, including criminal harassment, uttering threats and breaking and entering.

The complaint says “EPS was malicious, or at least negligent, when they issued the public warning… because they knew or ought to have known that it would cause unnecessary panic which could lead to greater harm.”

READ MORE: Family of Edmonton girl kidnapped, sexually assaulted outraged after accused gets bail 

The complaint says the Police Service Regulation was breached by unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority, neglect of duty, discreditable conduct and deceit in the statement about him being a significant risk to public safety was willfully or negligently false.

In his court filing, Jordan asks that EPS enforce the law outside Stene’s mother’s home, investigate the offences that have already occurred and protect Stene and his mother.

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“The Edmonton Police Service has not moved these people from outside the residence,” Jordan told Global News on Thursday night. “So in my letter, I advise that what is occurring outside of her residence should be considered an unlawful assembly or a riot and that the police have a duty to disperse that crowd.”

READ MORE: Family of young sex assault victim among those concerned by ongoing protests in Edmonton neighbourhood 

The lawyer also asks that another police service investigate the decision to issue a public warning and share it on Facebook and Twitter.

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In an email to Global News, EPS spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard said: “We’ve received the complaint and will be in touch with the complainant in due course.”

Last week, when asked about the public warning and the response to it, McFee said police are “not calling into question the bail process” by issuing one, and defended the decision to do so.

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“We look at this from the perspective that we have an obligation to public safety in relation to should people be notified,” he said. “So the decision was made by the justice of the peace, and we’re not questioning that.

“What we’re saying is, we opposed it, as did the Crown – the release. It was a sexual assault on a stranger and the individual was put back into the area.”

— With files from Allison Bench, Phil Heidenreich, Global News

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