Man accused of rape granted new trial for 2014 North Okanagan sexual assault - InfoNews

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Man accused of rape granted new trial for 2014 North Okanagan sexual assault

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
June 01, 2018 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - An Armstrong man previously convicted of raping a North Okanagan woman has won the right to a new trial.

Joseph Vance Caron, born in 1969, was found guilty in 2015 of sexually assaulting a 21-year-old woman during a nighttime attack outside an Armstrong church. Last year, Vance was sentenced to six years in jail for the crime and designated a dangerous offender.

But now the B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled that an error was made at trial, allowing Caron the chance to fight the case again.

Justice Gregory Fitch said the trial judge misapprehended some of Caron’s evidence, particularly his testimony about cigarettes and a beer can found at the scene.

The trial judge said Caron’s testimony about finishing his beer and throwing it away was inconsistent with that of an RCMP officer who said the can was found upright and nearly half full. Another issue was the evidence Caron gave under oath about smoking part of a menthol cigarette; a police officer said all the cigarettes found at the scene were smoked down to the filter.

Those inconsistencies, paired with other issues, led the judge to disbelieve Caron’s version of events and deem him not credible but the appellate court said the judge placed too much emphasis on the discrepancies.

“In my respectful view, the alleged inconsistencies between the appellant’s evidence and the physical evidence found at the scene assumed a role of outsized importance in this case,” Fitch said in his ruling.

The inconsistencies played an essential role in the judge's rejection of Caron's story, Fitch said. 

"The appellant was entitled to have his credibility evaluated in a manner untainted by misapprehensions of the evidence going to the heart of the judge’s reasoning process," he said. 

Caron requested, and was granted, a new trial by judge and jury.

The incident came to the RCMP’s attention in May of 2014 after the complainant notified police. At trial, she said she went for a walk around 10:30 p.m. and took shelter under the back roof of a church when it started to rain. While waiting for the rain to subside, a man came and asked her for a cigarette. They spoke for a while before the man suddenly pinned her against the wall and forced himself on her. She tried to fight him off and call her boyfriend but said Caron took her phone.

“She was terrified. During the sexual assault, she recalls the man saying that he was recording it with his phone and that he wanted her to agree that it was consensual and that she was enjoying it. She does not know if he ejaculated or if he was wearing a condom,” trial judge Gary Weatherill said.

Caron has a long criminal record in B.C. including some 18 convictions including theft, common assault and sexual assault.

According to a Supreme Court judgement from 2014, Caron was convicted of sexual assault, unlawful confinement and uttering threats in relation to a 2010 offence in Vernon. Court documents describe how Caron offered two women a ride, and drove off with one of them after her friend got out to use the washroom at 7-Eleven. Caron drove his victim to the Alexis Park Church, told her to take her pants off, and proceeded to punch and choke her, documents say. He served jail time for the offence and following his release, was convicted of failing to comply with a probation order. On Nov. 25, 2014, he was convicted for assault causing bodily harm and given a mandatory probation order.

He also has an earlier assault conviction from 2013, which came with a probation order that Caron violated shortly after sentencing. He was convicted for the breach just four months later.

In a previous ruling, Justice Gary Weatherill said Caron shows a “pattern of persistent aggressive behaviour.”

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