VANCOUVER — A former RCMP inspector was found not guilty Wednesday of sexually assaulting a civilian employee in a washroom at the force's British Columbia headquarters.
Tim Shields, who was a high-profile spokesman for the RCMP, was accused of sexually assaulting the woman in 2009.
The trial heard Shields and the complainant, who cannot be identified because of a publication ban, had a sexual encounter in a unisex washroom.
Crown attorney Michelle Booker maintained Shields had a "mistaken belief" that the woman provided consent while the ex-Mountie said she was a willing participant in what happened.
Provincial court Judge Patrick Doherty said the Crown failed to establish its case beyond a reasonable doubt and despite some evasiveness in Shields's testimony, he had to find him not guilty.
"His evidence raised a reasonable doubt in my mind against (the woman's) subjective assertion that she did not consent to sexual touching in the bathroom," Doherty said.
There were gaps in the evidence of both Shields and the complainant, he said, adding that a "criminal trial is not a credibility contest" but the onus is on the Crown to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The complainant testified that before the incident in the washroom, she and Shields met in his office and he said he would walk her to her car.
Instead, she said he led her down a flight of stairs and into a washroom she'd never seen, locked the door and started kissing her before undoing her bra, touching her breasts and putting her hand on his genitals.
Shields testified the woman consented but then accused him of sexual assault.
The complainant testified she followed Shields into the washroom because he said he had something important to tell her but then was "frozen and confused" about what was happening.
However, Doherty said it seems unlikely that the complainant, as a confident woman, would walk into a washroom without asking why.
He said he couldn't resolve from the testimony how the two ended up in the washroom together.
"I don't know whom to believe," Doherty said in delivering his decision.
The judge said the complainant was combative and angry during her testimony.
"She did not answer many questions posed in a responsive and comprehensive manner," he said, noting he sometimes had to tell the woman not to argue with defence lawyer David Butcher.
Butcher questioned the woman's credibility, saying she had exchanged at least one flirtatious email with his client, and the pair's working relationship had evolved to intimate hugs in Shields's office when the woman would walk in unannounced and sometimes closed the door.
"Mr. Shields says she's a fraud, a liar and a perjurer,'' he said in closing submissions.
In the Crown's closing argument, Booker said Shields provided an extraordinarily detailed, mechanical and unreasonable account of the incident in the washroom, portraying the woman as an instigator and himself as a victim of her advances.
Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for the B.C. Prosecution Service, said the Crown will review the decision and consider whether there are grounds for an appeal.
The outcome of the case should not deter sexual assault complainants from considering criminal proceedings, McLaughlin said outside court.
"It's important for people to realize the B.C. Prosecution Service takes allegations of sexual assault very seriously," he said.
Shields declined comment outside court but Butcher said his client was "relieved and happy that it's all over."
Shields joined the RCMP in 1996 and was promoted to inspector in 2009. He was suspended with pay in May 2015 in the middle of a code of conduct investigation. He left the force in December 2015 and was charged in May 2016.
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