deadmonton - thomas george svekla - 2006 assault


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On February 24th, 2006 RCMP were called to a noise complaint at a hotel in High Level. When they arrived they discovered that one man, Rudy Didzena, had been seriously injured. He was sent to a local hospital with stab wounds.


When he was released the next day, Didzena gave a statement to police and said it was "Tom" who injured him.


A few weeks later, police also took a statement from a woman named Diane Kipling, who said "Tom" could not have been the attacker because he was in bed with her.


Thomas Svekla was charged with sexual assault, assault with a weapon, uttering death threats and committing an indecent act (in the RCMP phone room in front of a woman).


When the case went to trial on September 6th, 2007 Svekla caught a break and the assault charges were stayed after the RCMP lost key evidence against him.


Court of Queen's Bench Justice Adam Germain made the decision “due to the loss of evidence” by police.


Two RCMP officers from High Level told court they had just begun using digital recorders at the time and lost the eyewitness testimony they had recorded that night.


That only left the officers’ written summaries of their interviews, which Germain pointed out did not even contain any direct quotes.


"The evidence lost was important. It was lost due to the negligence on the part of the police," Germain wrote in a six-page decision.


"Their policies and practices on this case ... were sloppy and no recording has ever surfaced."


The lost recordings should have been disclosed to Svekla's lawyer, he said.


Germain went on to say the officers had lost testimony that could have potentially exonerated Svekla and had failed to utilize old methods to back up a new procedure.


"No effort to re-interview the witnesses took place, and no backup notes or record keeping of any type was made of the interviews except for brief police notes providing little detail," Germain wrote.


"In this case therefore I view the admitted negligence of the police to be unacceptable.


"Although the officers acted in good faith throughout this investigation, the simple reality is that insufficient effort was taken to preserve this very important evidence. They had a duty to preserve the evidence.”


Crown prosecutor Clifton Purvis and defence lawyer Rob Shaigec declined to comment outside court.


"It's a constitutional stay," Shaigec later said. "There can't be a fair trial when material evidence has been lost."


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