Police Reveal How Many Sexual Cases are Unfounded in Peel
Earlier this year, media reports emerged that indicated that a large number of sexual assault cases in Canada were being classified as "unfounded" (meaning without basis or foundation in fact). For that reason, Peel Regional Police Chief Jennifer Evans decided to initiate an internal review in February 2017.
The review revealed that over 200 sexual assault cases in Peel have been incorrectly categorized since 2010.
"I want to assure victims that we take every sexual assault complaint seriously. The review revealed that some cases in Peel were incorrectly categorized. Through this process we have enhanced our training, policies, and procedures and have strengthened our relationships with our community partners." said Chief Jennifer Evans."
According to police, a team of senior investigators examined a total of 4,180 sexual assault cases.
Of those, 1,016 (24.3 per cent) cases were originally classified as 'unfounded'. The review revealed that 273 cases were incorrectly classified. As a result, these cases have been reclassified, making the unfounded rate 17.9 per cent.
Following the internal review, police say they implemented a number of recommendations, including:
- Administrative training on case classification practices;
- Validating accuracy with an approvals process before submitting to Statistics Canada;
- Updating policies to ensure the Uniform Crime Reporting definition of "unfounded" is clear and consistent.
- Oversight requiring authorization from supervisors prior to classifying cases as 'unfounded'.
- Conducting bi-annual audits of all 'unfounded' sexual assault cases together with our community partners.
- Developing a process to expand our partnerships with external agencies. They include those involved with victims of sexual assault, child abuse and violence towards women to collaborate and discuss future strategies.
- Increasing the number of officers trained on conducting sexual assault investigations.
- Developing a strategy to help victims feel more comfortable reporting incidents to police.
Police added that the force has long-standing relationships with organizations that support victims of sexual crimes, including Victims Services of Peel (VSOP) and the Peel Committee Against Women Abuse (PCAWA).
"PCAWA would like to acknowledge the work Chief Evans and Peel Regional Police have done in conducting the internal review of the ‘unfounded’ cases in Peel Region. We are encouraged that Peel Regional Police will work towards taking all the steps necessary to ensure that survivors of sexual violence will receive the appropriate and sensitive response they require, including effective supports when they seek justice," said Sharon Floyd Co-Chair PCAWA. "PCAWA looks forward to participating in the audits of unfounded cases to identify where opportunities exist in creating better outcomes for survivors who report sexual violence in Peel Region."
After a sexual assault investigation is closed, Peel police are federally mandated to follow Uniform Crime Reporting standards and classify a case into one of 15 categories. The classifications are defined by and reported to Statistics Canada and 'unfounded' is one of those classifications.
Statistics Canada defines the term to mean "that the offence reported did not occur, nor was it attempted and therefore no violations of the Criminal Code or other federal statute took place at that time or location."
"We will continue to work together to improve processes and ensure that all victims are treated with respect and that all investigations are conducted with sensitivity and professionalism," Peel police said in a statement. "Together we will develop and provide additional training to meet on-going demands."