CONTENT WARNING: This story contains disturbing and graphic content.
A decision date has been set in the trial that surrounds an alleged child abduction and sexual assault in northeast London, Ont., three years ago.
According to police reports at the time, it was on May 13, 2018 when a four-year-old girl playing outside was picked up by a man driving by. Witnesses reported to investigators that they observed the man allegedly inappropriately touching the young girl, according to police.
Police said the car stopped in the same area the girl was picked up, allowing her to get out and run home.
Lawrence Allen Thompson was arrested the following day. The 68-year-old, who was 65 at the time of the alleged incident, stands accused of four charges including kidnapping, child abduction, sexual assault and sexual interference.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
On Friday, the Superior Court of Justice heard closing arguments from the Crown and the defence.
Assistant Crown attorney Kristina Mildred asked Justice Alissa Mitchell to find Thompson guilty on all four charges he stands accused of.
Mildred argued that the totality of the evidence she presented, which included five civilian witnesses, three police witnesses and a number of photographs and videos, should be accepted.
According to testimony from Sgt. Eric Potasse and retired Det. Const. Lori-Ann Kirk, Thompson was arrested immediately after officers had concluded that a Chevrolet Impala parked in his backyard was the same vehicle being sought by police in the initial investigation.
Both officers had also testified that the Impala was found propped up with its two front tires removed. During his arrest, Kirk said Thompson had suggested to his wife that he had been working on the vehicle for some time.
Given that police had issued an appeal to the public in search of a suspect vehicle tied to the alleged abduction the day prior, Mildred argued in court that this could infer Thompson tampered with the Impala.
“There was an intention to deflect suspicion because of the accused’s consciousness of guilt,” Mildred said.
Mildred also argued that insight into Thompson’s motive can be gathered by his alleged actions on May 13, 2018.
The defence argued earlier in the trial that Thompson’s intent in picking up the four-year-old girl may have been altruistic in nature, with the man wanting to return the girl to her home. Mildred argued Thompson’s actions indicate otherwise.
“We do know that despite the fact there were numerous vehicles and at least a couple walking their dog in the area, he did not ask anyone for assistance in locating this child’s house or parents,” Mildred told the court.
As for the charges related to sexual assault and sexual interference, Mildred noted that the young girl’s testimony was the only evidence to offer insight into the matter and added that it was not refuted in court.
Mildred argued that while the girl, who is now seven, had inconsistencies between her police statement three years ago and her testimony this week, she was still a “reliable and credible witness.”
“She was genuine, she was candid, she was unvarnished,” Mildred said.
The assistant Crown attorney added that the young girl “readily admitted” inconsistencies between her statements, sometimes without being prompted.
Justice Mitchell noted that one issue she had with the girl’s testimony was when she expressed uncertainty on whether or not she was slapped on the buttocks, after having said it occurred.
The girl only expressed uncertainty when she was questioned about the slapping under cross-examination, but Mildred argued it makes sense for a girl her age to waiver under the circumstances.
“What’s so important is that she acknowledges when she’s not sure, but when she’s sure, she is.”
In his closing argument, defence lawyer Lakin Afolabi touched on Mildred’s claim that Thompson may have tampered with the Impala in an effort to deflect suspicion.
The defence lawyer noted that other physical markings unique to the Impala that were also seen in images of a suspect vehicle being sought by police remained on the car when it was found by officers.
Afolabi also argued that there was a lack of evidence to support the charge that Thompson had unlawfully confined the young girl, stating that “there’s no evidence that she did not want to be picked up.”
“He needed to be aware of the fact that he was acting against her will,” Afolabi said.
Afolabi brought into question the credibility of the child witness when examining the charges related to sexual assault.
“There was no manipulation, there were no Jedi mind tricks, it was as fair as I could’ve been,” Afolabi said of his cross-examination of the girl.
Afolabi made references to a number of discrepancies between the girl’s police statement in 2018 and testimony during the trial.
“That has to give this court a lot of difficulty when we’re using her evidence, her uncorroborated evidence, to prove a case this serious.”
Afolabi also argued the scene of the incident, which was a Sunday morning with a number of vehicles and bystanders nearby, would point toward altruistic intentions on Thompson’s part.
“So many witnesses watching you … that’s the worst and that’s the stupidest time to commit a child abduction because this wasn’t a child abduction, this was an attempt at being altruistic,” Afolabi said.
“You don’t do wickedness in the open like that. That doesn’t make sense.”
Mildred replied soon after that there was “no evidence, whatsoever before the court, that that child was in danger or distress” to a point that would require Thompson’s assistance.
“The only evidence we have is that by the time he’s already picked her up and going to the car with her, someone comes.”
Mildred also argued that “passivity of a four-year-old child is not consent,” when making reference to Afolabi’s claim that Thompson could not have known he was confining the girl against her will.
“We simply cannot suggest, and it cannot be the case, that there is an onus, an obligation on a four-year-old child to tell an unknown adult male that she does not want to go into his car,” Mildred said, adding that Thompson had physically picked up the child and brought her into the car, according to evidence the Crown presented.
Following Friday’s proceedings, Mitchell said she would hand down her decision on May 10, just a few days shy of the three-year anniversary of the alleged abduction.
The decision will be held in a hybrid model with some participants appearing in person, while others attend virtually over Zoom.
Proceedings for Mitchell’s decision are expected to take no longer than two hours.