A Mission woman has won a new trial after a B.C. Court of Appeal panel found that the judge’s reason for finding her guilty of break-and-enter was based on “impermissible stereotyping about how domestic assault victims typically react.”
Faye-Ann Thompson, 38, was convicted in February 2017 of a break-in which occurred in August 2014 at a residence in Manning Park.
She testified that, at the time, she and her boyfriend were working at Manning Park Resort and living in Mission.
They decided to go for a drive one night in Manning Park. At some point, they got into a fight in which Thompson said her boyfriend dragged her out of the vehicle by her hair, punched her in the back of the head, pushed her down a hill and then drove off, leaving her in a remote area.
Thompson testified that she was frightened, crying, and bleeding from her scrapes and scratches.
She said she eventually started walking down the forestry road they had drive along and, after more than two hours, came across a house down a smaller dirt road.
Thompson testified that she saw a man standing beside a ladder that was leaning against the house, and, still distressed, she told him about the fight she had with her boyfriend.
She said she then asked the man – who told her his name was Jason – if he could give her a ride, and he said he could take her to Mission because he had to work in Abbotsford that evening.
Thompson said that Jason told her he first needed help getting into the locked house, where he had left his keys.
She testified that Jason said he had tried but could not get himself up to the partially open window.
Thompson said she agreed to assist him, climbed up the ladder, opened the window and then let Jason in through the back patio door.
She said she waited on the patio for him, and about 15 minutes later, they left in the car that was on the property.
When the homeowners returned, they discovered that their vehicle was missing, as was a camera, $300 in cash and a purse that contained a spare set of keys to their vehicle.
They were later advised that their burned-out vehicle was found in the Mission area.
Thompson’s fingerprints were found on the inside of the window to the master bedroom, according to court documents.
The Crown argued that Thompson’s story was not credible and that she had made it up to explain her presence at the house.
The judge agreed, saying that Thompson’s actions did not accord with common sense, including that she never called the police or anyone else for help after the alleged assault, and that she did not seek first aid or clean up her wounds when she was in the house.
Thompson testified that she had cleaned up in the river, and she didn’t call police because she thought she’d be in more trouble with her boyfriend if she reported the assault.
The judge said she also found it “simply unbelievable” that Thompson, after apparently walking for two hours, came across a “fortuitous stranger” who just happened to be going to Abbotsford for work later that evening.
Thompson appealed the conviction, saying the judge erred by relying on “stereotypical assumptions about how a woman in an abusive relationship would react when assaulted, including that she would report the abuse to the police.”
Two of the three appeal-court judges – a woman and a man – agreed, saying that the trial judge erroneously relied on “impermissible stereotyping” to convict Thompson.
The dissenting judge, a woman, said the trial judge “simply applied common sense about human behaviour” to assess Thompson’s credibility, and dismissed the appeal.
Appeal applications require a majority, not a unanimous, vote to be allowed.