Court upholds ruling against prosecutor
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has set aside a judgment of malicious prosecution against a child therapist but has upheld the ruling against a Crown prosecutor.
Prosecutor Matthew Miazga and child therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys were found liable in 2003 for malicious prosecution against 12 people, including Richard Klassen and members of his extended family who were wrongfully accused of sexual abuse against three foster children in the early 1990s.
Queen’s Bench Justice George Baynton found Miazga, Bunko-Ruys and Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck liable following a trial that examined why charges of sexual abuse were laid against the individuals based on bizarre, unfounded allegations by children who were actually being abused by their own parents.
Dueck did not appeal the 2003 judgment.
The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge made a “palpable and overriding error of fact in determining that Bunko-Ruys had initiated the prosecution.”
Two of three judges on the panel found the trial judge’s ruling against Miazga was reasonable and supported by the evidence, thereby upholding the decision.
The dissenting judge would have set aside the judgment against Miazga. Justice William Vancise disagreed with the application of the law and the facts, particularly on the finding that the absence of reasonable and probable cause was evidence of malice.
Miazga has not yet decided whether he will seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, his lawyer Michael Tochor said Wednesday.
“It’s a period of review and reflection for him right now,” Tochor said.
“The fact that there’s a dissent is one factor that is considered when any decision is taken whether to appeal it or not.”
Richard Klassen said he is satisfied that the appeal court upheld the ruling against Miazga and wishes the matter could now be laid to rest.
If Miazga appeals to the Supreme Court then Klassen will consider cross appealing the Bunko-Ruys decision, he said.
“It is affecting us because we have to constantly rehash this thing. I think the government should accept what they have right now and just get on with it. Get it over with.
“We’re not trying to claim that all prosecutors are malicious. They can go ahead and prosecute people. Just don’t do what they did to us,” he said.
Twelve members of Klassen’s family were charged in 1991 with sexually abusing three foster children.
Allegations included detailed ac- counts of satanic ritual abuse, which included animal and human sacrifice, as well as claims the children had been forced to eat feces and drink urine.
By 1993, most of the charges had been stayed, and as the years passed, the children came forward to admit they had made the whole thing up.
Saskatchewan’s justice minister, Frank Quennell, said Wednesday he was pleased with the Court of Appeal decision on Bunko-Ruys, because it could affect professionals such as teachers, social workers and nurses who report suspicions of child abuse and child sexual abuse.
Quennell said he was troubled by aspects of the decision relating to Miazga.
“I have an overriding concern that the administration of justice, and particularly the protection of the public and particularly the protection of children, be strengthened by the extent possible and I’m concerned that we not have a chilling effect on the decisions of prosecutors when they’re acting to protect the public,” Quennell told reporters in Regina.
An agreement for damages was reached in 2004 and will not be changed by Wednesday’s judgment, Tochor said.
Quennell said members of the Klassen and Kvello families have been paid $2.46 million as a settlement by the provincial government.
A further $200,000 will be paid out if the judgment against Miazga stands.
The government has also paid the legal fees of Miazga and Bunko-Ruys but it will not have a say in whether Miazga launches an appeal, said Quennell.
If Miazga is granted leave to appeal the court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, Quennell acknowledged it is likely the government would continue to support Miazga.
Miazga continues to work as a Crown prosecutor and Quennell described him as “a leader” who has “made great contributions to public service.”
Quennell said a decision on whether Miazga will be subject to discipline if the court decision stands is up to the director of public prosecutions, not him.
But he believes disciplining Miazga would send “a very chilling message to every Crown prosecutor in the province that they better err on the side of not vigourously defending the public in cases like this that might be controversial.”
While defending Miazga, Quennell said he was very sympathetic to the Klassen and Kvello family members.
“I’m sorry for what they went through and that’s sincerely how I feel about that … I think they understand that this appeal was about the law and not them. And I hope that there’s no sense on the part of any of those plaintiffs to the original case that they require revenge against Mr. Miazga personally for doing his job,”
— With files from James Wood