REGINA (CP) – A family fighting for compensation after being wrongly accused and maliciously prosecuted as foster child sex abusers made progress on two fronts Thursday.
A judge ruled that any appeal of the malicious prosecution decision by investigators must wait until after the compensation issue is settled in court. At the same time, Saskatchewan Justice Minister Frank Quennell announced that officials from his department will meet with lawyers for the family to discuss how they can be assisted by the government while the case is still before the courts.
“I want to be open to any suggestions or proposals these families might have as to how they might be assisted that will not compromise the appeal,” Quennell said shortly after the court ruling came down.
“I’m prepared to listen to anything they might suggest.”
The developments were the latest chapter in a legal odyssey that spans more than 12 years.
Richard Klassen and 11 other members of his extended family were charged in 1991 with abusing the three foster children – a brother and his younger twin sisters – in bizarre and demonic ways.
The children said they were forced to eat eyeballs, drink blood, participate in orgies and watch newborn babies get skinned and buried.
Saskatoon police called it the “scandal of the century” at the time, but most of the cases never made it to trial.
By 1993 most of the charges were stayed to avoid further “trauma” to the children.
But, as the years passed, the children came forward publicly and recanted their accusations.
The boy, who had abused his sisters himself and was removed from the family’s care, said he had made up the allegations because he was frustrated and wanted to be reunited with the girls. He said he coerced the sisters into backing up his fantastic tales of abuse.
The case prompted the Klassens to launch a lawsuit claiming police and prosecutors were malicious for believing the children’s fantastic tales.
In a ruling last month, Justice George Baynton agreed, finding that three of the lead investigators in the case were liable: Saskatoon police Supt. Brian Dueck, who was a corporal when the case broke; therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys and Crown Prosecutor Matthew Miazga.
The case against a second Crown attorney, Sonja Hansen, was dismissed.
“In my view, proceeding with charges in such an extraordinary case in the absence of reasonable and probable cause constitutes a strong presumption of malice,” Baynton wrote in his decision.
“It is almost beyond belief that none of those involved in the prosecution of the plaintiffs stood back, so to speak, and asked themselves if any of this made any sense and whether it could reasonably be true.”
Baynton ruled on the facts of the case, but left the issues of compensation to be decided in another court hearing that is set for September.
Earlier this month, the government lawyer representing Miazga, Hansen, and Bunko-Ruys announced he will appeal the ruling.
Quenell has said despite what the Klassens went through, the case raises legal issues that must be resolved through an appeal.
The Klassens, however, have cited a pre-trial agreement among all parties that the issue of damages would be settled before any appeals were heard.
Dueck’s lawyer has refrained from announcing his intention to appeal, in part, because of the pre-trial agreement.