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Guilty verdict in French police gang rape trial a testament to Canadian woman’s perseverence

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36 Quai des Orfèvres: A fabled address, the building — known simply as “36” — has made appearances in movies and crime fiction.

That’s where Emily Spanton told court a group of off-duty officers she’d met took her for a private tour on April 22, 2014, following a night of heavy drinking at a nearby Irish pub.

Eighty minutes later, around 4 a.m., Spanton stumbled barefoot down the stairs. She’d lost her tights and her glasses and carried her shoes. She was covered in bruises, injuries which would be documented.

And as Spanton repeatedly told cops at the front desk, she’d just been raped by two, perhaps three officers, the conversation stilted by both sides unable to understand the other’s language.

Read more:

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All this time later, after years of tortuous legal proceedings — charges filed, charges dropped, a humiliating re-enactment of the crime at another hearing, crucial evidence disappearing, deleted, destroyed, a massive undertaking to collect blood samples from more than 100 officers who worked in the building for the purpose of obtaining DNA, charges reimposed — the two accused have been found guilty by a judge and jury, after eight hours of deliberation, and sentenced to seven years in prison.

In the court proceedings, the officers — Antoine Quirin, 40, and Nicolas Redouane, 49 — weren’t referred to by their full names, their identities protected by a French law that shields law enforcement working in sensitive police jobs. Spanton, who grew up in Toronto, daughter of a high-ranking police officer but now lives in Niagara, waived anonymity.

As the verdict was delivered Thursday, one of the defendants shook his head in disbelief while the other wept and collapsed into his lawyer’s arms. They were standing mere feet from Spanton, who also shed tears, according to media reports from inside the Palais de Justice courtroom, situated right next door to “36,” on the bank of the Seine.

In his final statement before sentencing, Redouane told the court: “I should never have brought Emily Spanton to the BRI offices. All my life I’ve had good relationships with women. I never, never, never assaulted, attacked or raped Emily Spanton.”

Quirin said it has been a “five year nightmare” for him and his family.

The trial and its previous iterations were replete with denials and jaw-dropping revelations about how the investigation had been originally mishandled and subsequently compromised, while the public and commentators debated sexual assault prosecutions in the post #MeToo era. At issue was the concept of consent, as both accused insisted that Spanton had willingly participated in events.

But Spanton’s testimony had been consistent throughout, even as the 39-year-old woman’s character and lifestyle and sexual habits had been scorched by the defence teams. This, of course, is typical of sexual assault trials everywhere, including Canada — belittling and bullying the complainant.

She admitted to getting drunk with the off-duty officers, thus was in no fit state to give consent. Arriving at the BRI’s fifth-floor offices, eager for a private tour, she was forced to drink whiskey, she said, forced to perform oral sex and then raped several times by two, possibly three, men.

Taking the stand on the opening day of the trial, two and a half weeks ago, Spanton testified that she was “excited to see the “36.” “They explained the police station had been the subject of films, and made it sound like something I would want to see and I thought that going to a police station would sober me up as there would be plenty of lights and people.”

Instead, the offices were empty and dark.

It was, she said, “the worst mistake of my life.”

Spanton testified she was made to drink more, then forced to her knees and raped as the officers became violent when she wouldn’t go along with their sexual intentions. “They smashed my face against the desk,” she would late state, in an interview with French TV. “I was stunned. I was seeing stars. I couldn’t see anything for a while, I couldn’t see them either, they were behind me.”

At trial, Spanton said: “I just gave up, just wanted it to be over. I kept my eyes closed.”

Spanton testified: “Someone was forcing himself into my mouth. Someone penetrated me. Then someone else. When it finished, I gathered up my belongs, but I couldn’t open the door. I was pulled into another office and everything happened again.”

Then told: “Go home.”

Quirin initially denied any sexual contact with the victim but changed his story after his DNA was found on Spanton’s underwear. As was the DNA of Redouane DNA from a third person was never identified despite the blood-testing conducted on scores of police employees.

During the assault, Redouane had sent a particularly incriminating text message to a colleague. “Hurry up, she’s a swinger.” That message was deleted from his phone but retrieved on the recipient’s mobile.

The judge — known as the trial president — said Thursday the court was “convinced by the victim’s steadfast statements” and by “scientific and technical evidence.”

Prosecutor Philippe Courroye, in his closing arguments, said Spanton had been “easy prey” for the officers. “By taking advantage of a young, drunk foreigner, by treating her as an object, they have gone over to the side of those they pursue. Not policemen but “usurpers, unworthy of their badges, acting in the same way as those they pursue.

“They have lied, failed, concealed.”

From the outset, the investigation was an inept mess. The crime scene was never cordoned off. Spanton was, that night — after making her complaint understood, demanding to speak with a female officer — tested for alcohol and drugs while the officers were allowed to go home without submitting to a breathalyzer test.

Vital evidence disappeared. Both accused wiping messages and videos from the night off their cellphones.

At one point, investigators travelled to Canada to interview Spanton’s friends and relatives, digging around in her personal life, but no such intense probe was undertaken with the accused.

It seemed an endless nightmare, with the appeals and the reversals, yet Spanton persevered, coping with the bureaucracy of a foreign country. While the defendants, after being originally suspended, were permitted to return to their jobs.

Before leaving the stand, Spanton was asked by the judge what she expected from the court.

“I just want to stand up and publicly confront these men. Then I want to move on, close this chapter.”

The disgraced officers had been facing a possible sentence of 20 years for gang rape. They were also ordered to pay $23,000 in damages to Spanton.

They have 10 days to file an appeal.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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Ecology

Globe Climate: Canada’s resource reckoning is coming

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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.

This afternoon, the Alberta government announced that it is restoring a coal mining policy it revoked last spring. At the time, the move provoked a widespread public backlash detailed by The Globe. The original decision, which opened up more than 1.4 million hectares to exploration, was made without public consultation. Premier Jason Kenney previously defended the changes.

Lots more on coal and Canada’s resources industry in this week’s newsletter edition.

Now, let’s catch you up on other news.

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Ecology

‘Incredibly destructive’: Canada’s Prairies to see devastating impact of climate change

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As the climate continues to warm at an alarming rate, experts warn if dramatic steps to mitigate global warming are not taken, the effects in Canada’s Prairie region will be devastating to the country’s agriculture sector.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, the country is warming, on average, about double the global rate.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. recently found 2020 was earth’s second-hottest year on record, with the average land and ocean surface temperature across the globe at 0.98 of a degree C above the 20th-century average.

However, the agency found the northern hemisphere saw its hottest year on record, at 1.28 degrees C above the average.

“(In Canada) we are looking at about 6.4C degrees of warming this century, which isn’t much less than one degree per decade, which is just a terrifying rate of warming,” Darrin Qualman, the director of climate crisis policy and action at the National Farmer’s Union said.

Qualman said there is “massive change coming” to Canada’s Prairies, which will be “incredibly destructive.”

“It’s not going too far to say that if we made that happen, parts of the Prairies wouldn’t be farmable anymore,” he said.

According to the federal government, in 2018 Canada’s agriculture and agri-food system generated $143 billion, accounting for 7.4 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The sector employed 2.3 million people in 2018. The majority of the 64.2 million hectares of farmland in Canada is concentrated in the Prairies and in southern Ontario.

The effects of climate change are already being felt on the ground in the Prairies, Qualman said, adding that the NFU has already heard from farmers complaining of “challenging weather.”

“People are sharing pictures of flattened crops and buildings, et cetera, that have been damaged,” he said. “And we’re still at the beginning of this.”

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Ecology

Insect-based dog food aims to cut your pet’s carbon pawprint

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Meat has an enormous carbon footprint, with livestock liable for about 15 per cent of worldwide emissions, as we have beforehand mentioned on this e-newsletter. That is prompted specialists to suggest consuming much less meat for sustainability (and well being) causes.

However what about your pet? One research discovered that the methane and nitrous oxide emissions generated by canine and cat meals within the U.S. alone had been equal to about 64 million tonnes of CO2, or roughly the quantity produced by 13.6 million automobiles. And it might be getting worse, with a development towards feeding pets “human-grade” meat.

That is prompted some pet meals makers to look to lower-carbon protein sources — together with bugs.

Research present that producing insect-based meals requires far much less feed, land and water and generates far fewer greenhouse fuel emissions per kilogram than meats comparable to beef, pork or rooster.

That is one of many causes increasingly more pet meals containing insect protein are hitting the market. Purina, a model owned by multinational Nestlé, launched a line of canine and cat meals containing black soldier fly larvae in Switzerland in November.

In Canada, Montreal-based Wilder Harrier began promoting canine treats made with cricket protein in 2015 and pet food made with black soldier fly larvae in 2019. It plans to broaden to launch a line of insect-based cat treats later this yr and cat meals in 2022 due to “a ton of demand,” mentioned firm co-founder Philippe Poirier.

Wilder Harrier initially labored with animal nutritionists on insect-based merchandise to unravel a unique downside — specifically, the founders’ canines had allergy symptoms to frequent meats utilized in canine meals. Poirier mentioned now about half its prospects hunt down the product due to their pets’ allergy symptoms and about half for environmental causes.

Dr. Cailin Heinze, a U.S.-based veterinary nutritionist licensed by the American School of Veterinary Vitamin, has written concerning the environmental influence of pet meals. She mentioned we’re typically “not as involved as we probably ought to [be]” concerning the environmental footprint of pets.

Alternatively, she famous that the longer-term influence of newer diets, comparable to vegan meals and people containing bugs, hasn’t been nicely examined in comparison with conventional pet meals.

Maria Cattai de Godoy, an assistant professor of animal sciences on the College of Illinois who research novel proteins for pet meals (together with bugs, yeast and plant-based substances), mentioned such substances are rigorously examined to find out their security and diet earlier than being added to pet meals. 

“This can be a very extremely regulated trade,” she mentioned, however admitted it is also evolving.

Relating to bugs, she mentioned constructive information “reveals promise in direction of utilizing them increasingly more in pet meals.” Insect-based proteins have additionally earned the endorsement of the British Veterinary Affiliation, which says some insect-based meals could also be higher for pets than prime steak.

However Godoy famous that there isn’t any one-size-fits-all resolution, and pet homeowners ought to take into consideration the wants of their very own particular person pet and analysis whether or not a specific weight loss plan can be appropriate.

She mentioned that other than the kind of protein, issues like packaging and manufacturing strategies may also make a distinction. For instance, utilizing meat byproducts that may in any other case turn into waste would not drive elevated meat manufacturing the identical approach as utilizing human-grade meat.

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