A woman in her 30s is in a critical condition following a serious assault in a residence in Arklow, Co Wicklow on Saturday morning.
The woman was brought to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin with serious injuries following the incident at about 4.25am.
Gardaí are following a definite line of enquiry in connection with the assault and while no arrests have been made, investigations are ongoing.
Gardaí in Wicklow are appealing for any witnesses or anyone who may have information in relation to this incident to come forward.
They are also appealing to any road users who may have camera footage who were travelling in the Arklow area between 4am and 5am to contact them on Wicklow Garda station on 0404 60140, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.
In the wake of damning data from Uber that found more than 3,000 sexual assaults were reported inside U.S. rides last year, B.C. is asking how safe ridesharing will be when it eventually arrives on the province’s roads.
But a lack of similar data regarding sexual assaults in taxis across B.C. makes it difficult to draw comparisons.
In its safety report, Uber said 464 people were raped while using its U.S. services in 2017 and 2018. Almost all of them — 99.4 per cent — were riders. It’s difficult to compare those statistics to other modes of transportation because U.S. taxi companies and transit agencies generally do not collect similar national data.
That appears to be the case in B.C. as well. The RCMP and other police agencies said they didn’t have that data on hand, adding it’s “not something that can be easily teased out.”
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Although Vancouver police said they have received “a number of complaints” over the last two years, a spokesperson said it’s “not an epidemic by any means”, considering the number of rides that take place.
The Passenger Transportation Board, which is tasked with dealing with driver complaints, also said it doesn’t track those specific incidents.
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Minister of Transportation Claire Trevena said the province demands “the highest level” of criminal background checks for taxi drivers, and is assuring the province the same standard will be set for ridesharing drivers.
“We have a very strict policy with taxis where we do follow up if there are assaults,” she said. “We obviously want people to be safe however they’re travelling, whatever form of transportation they’re using.
“There are, sadly, always going to be incidents and I think this is extremely concerning that there are. We do everything we can to make sure that those people who are driving a vehicle to earn an income are assessed, are checked … to ensure people who are driving are as safe as we can attest.”
In its report, Uber noted that drivers and riders were both attacked and that some assaults occurred between riders. It added its data was based solely on reports from riders and drivers — meaning the actual numbers could be much higher. Sexual assaults commonly go unreported.
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In B.C., at least two taxi drivers have been charged with sexually assaulting a passenger while on the job this year, including a July case in Kelowna and another in North Vancouver this past March.
Angela Marie MacDougall, executive director of Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver, said sexual violence is bound to happen when vulnerable people, particularly women, find themselves in a confined space.
No one from the Vancouver Taxi Association or the city’s taxi companies responded to requests for comment.
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In the past, the association has taken issue with ridesharing drivers not being required to mount cameras inside their vehicles like taxis do. MacDougall said that’s also not the point.
“It maybe provides some deterrent, maybe some evidence, but we also know that cameras can be disabled,” she said.
“The point is, rather, that the company is taking very careful action in their recruitment and monitoring of those in the ridesharing program, and that they take swift and serious action any time there is an allegation or evidence of sexual violence.”
Lyft said last year it would also release a safety report. A company spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that it “remained committed” to releasing a report, but did not say when.
Two men are guilty of sexually assaulting and drugging a 24-year-old woman over several hours at the College Street Bar in downtown Toronto three years ago, a jury found Saturday after deliberating for four days.
The jurors could not agree on whether bar owner Gavin MacMillan, 44, and bar manager Enzo DeJesus Carrasco, 34, forcibly confined the woman at the bar on the night of Dec. 14, 2016 and whether DeJesus Carrasco raped her at his apartment the next morning. They acquitted DeJesus Carrasco on a charge of sexual assault where he was accused of repeatedly penetrating the complainant with his fingers when they were alone at the bar without her consent.
After the jury announced their verdict, both men appeared stunned. MacMillan later wiped away tears.
Crown Rick Nathanson said they are very happy with the result and that the complainant is relieved. “(We are) grateful first to the complainant, I think this is an apt case for the term survivor, who showed tremendous strength and courage through all of this. She seemed more motivated, frankly, out of concern for the community than for herself.”
He also thanked the jury for their hard work in a case that involved “difficult and troubling evidence” and requested that the court ensure they were aware of counselling supports available to jurors.
Since the complainant said she could remember little about what happened on the night of Dec. 14, 2016, the central evidence in the case was several hours of graphic video obtained from the College Street Bar’s security cameras. The video, however, does not have audio, and what can be seen on it was described in dramatically different ways by the Crown and defence.
The defence said the video shows the two men sexually dominating the complainant at her explicit request. They said she then faked her memory loss and lied about being sexually assaulted because she didn’t want her boyfriend to see her bruises and find out she cheated.
The Crown argued the video shows a woman being given alcohol and cocaine until she was disoriented and hovering in and out of consciousness, then being overpowered by the two men and forced to perform painful and humiliating sexual acts over several hours.
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After the jury verdict, Nathanson sought to have bail for both men revoked. MacMillan was permitted to remain on bail, but under a strict house arrest. DeJesus Carrasco was handcuffed and taken into custody with a bail hearing set next month. He faces two future trials on three counts of sexual assault involving three women.
His lawyer Uma Kancharla said, after the verdicts, that her client maintains his innocence in all the charges and they are considering grounds for appeal.
MacMillan’s lawyer Sean Robichaud declined to comment. MacMillan walked out of the courthouse by the waiting television cameras but did not respond to questions.
A sentencing hearing has been set for the end of January. The Crown has said they will be seeking “significant penitentiary sentences.” The maximum possible sentence for gang sexual assault is 14 years, with the Crown likely to seek a sentence of between four to eight years, said defence lawyer Daniel Brown, who has written a book about sexual assault law and was not involved in the case.
The charges the jury could not reach a verdict on were stayed by the Crown.
During deliberations the jury asked questions about the law around consent and forcible confinement. A jury does not give reasons for its verdicts and jurors’ deliberations are kept secret by law, making it impossible to know what evidence or reasoning they relied on to come to their decision.
The trial is one of several in recent years that show the challenges posed when a complainant may be too intoxicated to consent but has little memory of what happened. Such cases often rely on the testimony of other witnesses or video.
In this case, the jury watched video footage from the time the complainant entered the bar at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 14 — a Wednesday — until she left just before 6 a.m. the next morning with DeJesus Carrasco.
The complainant testified she has a hazy memory of the night, and could only recall bits and pieces of what happened. She said she did remember being forced to perform oral sex on MacMillan, being penetrated by both men and wanting desperately to leave but her body not co-operating.
The defence argued she was faking her memory loss to avoid answering difficult questions.
Both MacMillan and DeJesus Carrasco testified in their defence and said the sexual activity was entirely consensual and they had no concerns about her being too intoxicated to consent.
Dambrot instructed jurors that they could find the men guilty of gang sexual assault if they found the complainant was not consenting, too intoxicated to consent or unconscious at any moment during the several hours of sexual activity that night. The jurors did not have to agree on the same moment or reasons, as long as they all found one that satisfied them beyond a reasonable doubt.
The complainant would not have capacity to consent, Dambrot said, if she was intoxicated enough not to know the sexual nature of the act, the identity of her partner or partners or that she had the right to say no.
“Mere proof of intoxication does not in and of itself negate capacity to consent,” he said.
If the jury found the complainant was unconscious at any point, she would automatically lack capacity to consent. Both accused have said she never lost consciousness.
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The jury was also told to consider whether the accused could have an honest belief that the complainant was consenting and whether they took reasonable steps to determine she was consenting. Dambrot noted a reasonable person would take more care in ascertaining consent before invasive and dangerous sexual activity with a stranger.
The complainant had been shown brief clips of the video by the Crown prior to the trial, so that she would not have to see them in court for the first time, prosecutor Rick Nathanson said in court. He said it was extremely difficult to decide how much of it was necessary to show her, given that she cannot remember much of it and she found it extremely upsetting to watch.
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When she saw a clip of her staggering through the bar and crashing into tables at around 11:45 p.m. she said it was clear why her memory was so impaired.
“That right there itself — how would I remember that?” she said, testifying via video from another room in the courthouse.
“Obviously I wouldn’t remember that,” she said. “It looks really messed up.”
The sexual activity began about twenty minutes later.
The jury heard that the woman went to the College Street Bar that night to meet a friend who was doing a bartending course through MacMillan’s Bartender One training school. DeJesus Carrasco said she was flirtatious and making lewd comments, though the exact comments he alleged she made were ruled inadmissible.
The video shows her being served two cocktails and five whiskey shots, though it was disputed how much she consumed and how big the shots were.
She had three of the shots with the two men in the span of ten minutes around 10 p.m.
When the complainant and DeJesus Carrasco were in the bar alone around 10:20 p.m., the Crown alleged he sexually assaulted her by repeatedly penetrating her with his fingers without her consent or while she was incapacitated.
The jury acquitted DeJesus Carrasco of this count of sexual assault.
At around 10:55 p.m. the two left the bar together for about half an hour. DeJesus Carrasco said they got food and then he left the complainant alone with the College Street Bar unlocked while he got a drink at another bar.
When he returned to the College Street Bar several minutes later to meet a cocaine dealer he saw her swaying on the sidewalk outside.
He asked what happened and said she told him in a normal voice: “I’m fine but sometimes the pills screw up my head.” He didn’t ask her what the pills were and it is unknown what the pills are.
They went into the bar at about 11:30 p.m. and the security video shows the complainant staggering into the bar, lurching into a table and sinking into a chair. She remained in the chair barely moving with her head slumped forward for ten minutes. DeJesus Carrasco said she never lost consciousness and continued to ask for cocaine.
He said a text message he sent to the drug dealer shortly before entering the bar that he “had a girl pass out” wasn’t literal, nor was a text to MacMillan that the complainant was “dead dead dead.”
DeJesus Carrasco pulled the complainant over to the bar when the cocaine was ready, slapped her face repeatedly and positioned her head over the cocaine. After this she got up and staggered out of the bar, crashing into tables on her way out. She came back in two minutes later, still walking very unsteadily. MacMillan came back to the bar and the complainant is seen having three lines of cocaine in 13 minutes.
The sexual activity began minutes later at about 12:10 a.m. and continued until shortly before 6 a.m.
The defence argued that the complainant’s inability to walk was only temporary and that she appeared to improve rapidly, showing that her state was not caused by alcohol. They said she was being held up and supported by MacMillan because she wanted to be submissive and controlled, not because she was too intoxicated to stand or hold herself upright on her own.
The video shows the complainant and DeJesus Carrasco leaving the bar shortly before 6 a.m. They both got in a taxi, which she said she thought was taking her home, but which actually took them to his basement apartment. She said he raped her in his bedroom, though her memory of that time is hazy and she had no memory of anyone being in the apartment. DeJesus Carrasco said there were two other people in the apartment at the time and that she was the one who wanted to have intercourse.
The jury was unable to come to a verdict on this charge, which has now been stayed.
The complainant called 911 to report being sexually assaulted later that day. She testified that there has been lasting damage to her knees and jaw from what happened to her.
She didn’t dress the way he’d expect. She didn’t react the way he’d expect.
She simply didn’t behave the way an Ontario judge expected a sexual assault victim to behave.
After all these years, some on the bench are still trapped in biases of the past. And so Ontario Court Justice Peter J. Wright acquitted the man on trial, finding Richard Lacombe hadn’t twice assaulted his neighbour who lived in an assisted care residence for persons with disabilities.
Among the many factors he found significant?
“She dressed in a loose fitting pyjama top with no bra and underwear, engaging with a man that she really did not know well at all, including significant French kissing.”
The Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned that 2017 acquittal and ordered a new trial, finding the trial judge’s analysis was tainted by “long-discredited myths and stereotypes about sexual assault complainants.”
According to the woman, her neighbour knocked on her door and invited her out for a cigarette on the fire escape. As they chatted, she claimed he began touching and pinching her breasts. She asked him to stop but he just laughed, she said, and put his hand down her pants and rubbed her hard.
When he French kissed her, she kissed him back because, she said, he wasn’t listening to her and she feared he would hit her.
When she went back to her room, she saw that he’d caused her to bleed. She was too terrified to tell anyone.
The following evening, the second alleged assault took place under virtually the same circumstances. She agreed to meet him for a smoke because she was afraid of his reaction if she turned him down, she explained. She became more frightened when the man allegedly got angry when she refused to masturbate him.
This time, though, she complained to her boyfriend and a girlfriend. She listened to their advice and called police.
Lacombe’s story was far different. He said she was the one who came to his room, flashed her breasts and asked him to touch her. But besides that brief consensual touching and a further “peck on the lips” the following night, he insisted nothing else happened between them.
The trial judge listed 11 factors that made him question the woman’s credibility, including the way she was dressed, her failure to leave the situation at once or to immediately report what happened.
He then invoked “common sense and life experiences” to conclude that he should reject her version of events.
The Crown appealed and a Superior Court judge upheld Lacombe’s acquittal.
The Crown appealed again and this time, Ontario’s highest court agreed a retrial was necessary because the judge was working from an outdated lens of “rape myths.”
“Dress does not signify consent, nor does it justify assaultive behaviour,” wrote Justice Sarah E. Pepall on behalf of the three-judge panel. “As such, it had no place in the trial judge’s assessment of the complainant’s credibility and reliability.”
Nor should he have placed any weight on her not immediately telling friends or police.
“The myth that a sexual assault complainant is less credible if she does not immediately complain is one of the more notorious examples of the speculation that in the past has passed for truth in this difficult area of human behaviour and the law,” Pepall wrote, quoting a decision already a decade old.
The appeal court was also critical of the trial judge for questioning why the complainant would have kissed Lacombe and not left.
“There is no rule as to how victims of sexual assault are apt to behave,” Pepall wrote in a stern rebuke. “He was comparing her conduct to conduct he expected of a sexual assault complainant without giving any consideration to her evidence of fear.”
Or as another judge once wisely stated: “These cases should never be decided on how abuse victims are expected to react by people who have never suffered abuse.”