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Lawyer’s request witness have scars photographed ‘improper’: Judge

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It was a highly unusual courtroom request, and as it turned out, inappropriate.

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Editor’s note: This story contains details that may be disturbing to some readers


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It was a highly unusual courtroom request, and as it turned out, inappropriate.

In cross-examination of a young woman who has claimed persistent, shocking physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her parents, one of the defence lawyers wanted to see photos of her scars.

Lawyer Luke Reidy, representing the female accused in the case, suggested the witness, now in her 20s, might agree to go with a court officer and have the purported scars on her back, which she said she sustained when she was 14 when she was pimped out to strangers by her parents, be photographed for the court record.

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The witness, in her fourth day of exhausting testimony at the Superior Court jury trial, appeared shocked and her voice broke.

“I’m going to tell you that since leaving (the family home), is that, with the help of a lot of therapists and going through a lot of stuff, that I’m allowed to say no,” she said, crying, to Reidy. “And it’s my body and I can say no. So, I will say no.

“It is my body and it is not yours. You cannot make me take pictures. It is my body and I am saying no.”

Reidy suggested, if she was telling the truth, she would have agreed. That’s when assistant Crown attorney Heather Donkers objected to the entire line of questioning.

After an extended lunch break to late in the afternoon, Justice Thomas Heeney apologized to the jury for the delay and told them to disregard the exchange.

“I have ruled that this was an improper question and should not have been asked,” he said.

“She has no obligation to submit to such a procedure,” he said, and instructed the jury not to draw any adverse conclusions from her answers.

Heeney also pointed out all the questions came out of an incident that isn’t even the subject of any of the 47 criminal charges before the court.

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The witness is the fourth complainant to testify at the disturbing trial involving frequent and what has been described as sadistic abuse behind the closed doors of what was perceived to be a normal, middle-class, religious family living in the suburbs.

All complainants, now young adults, are the children of the man, aged 57, and woman, aged 54, both of whom have pleaded not guilty to a combined 47 charges including incest, sexual assault, sexual interference, aggravated assault, forcible confinement and failing to provide the necessaries of life to a child younger than 16 between 2003 and 2020.

The identities of the children are protected by a court-ordered publication ban. The family lived in several Ontario cities, including London.

The evidence began four weeks ago – the trial is slated to last six to eight weeks – and what the jury has heard has been shocking. The children each have described what they say was almost daily physical, emotional and sexual abuse.

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Each one has discussed frequent beatings, being tied up with duct tape and rope, locked in garden sheds, cupboards and basements and denied food. There were incidents described when they were doused with boiling water and forced to ingest dish soap and Tabasco sauce. This was while they were expected to keep up appearances, volunteer and work to contribute to the family’s income.

The descriptions of sexual abuse have been graphic and disturbing with the witnesses telling the jury they were routinely forced into sex acts by both parents. Two witnesses have testified to their parents leaving them at unknown warehouses to be physically and sexually abused by strangers.

The physical injuries were frequent, they said, but the rule of the household was never to tell anyone and not to see any doctors, but to treat any injuries at home. One witness has said the internet search engine Google “was our doctor.”

The allegations came to light once the children left the home in a hurry in the spring of 2020, months after child welfare had paid a visit and their mother had left the household. The breaking point was when their father left the house to get some rope to tie up his young adult children.

The defence strategy appears to be to question the honesty and integrity of the witnesses, and suggest nothing happened.

That issue was at the forefront Thursday when Reidy asked why the witness never disclosed the abuse to authorities sooner. Similar to what a previous witness said, she told Reidy the abuse was “normal” to her.

“Now, I’m coming to the realization that it’s not normal to beat your children and sexually assault them and give them to other people to beat and sexually assault,” she said.

The trial continues on Friday.

jsims@postmedia.com

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