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Canada's Supreme Court Reduces Award To Ex-Prisoner Sexually Assaulted By Guard

On February 8, 2008, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a unanimous ruling reducing by almost half the award given an ex-prisoner who was a youthful victim of a sexual predator guard.

When he was 18, Dean Zastowny was a prisoner at Oakalla provincial prison in Burnaby, B.C. Roedrick MacDougall was a guard there. According to Zastowny, he was one of dozens of victims preyed on by MacDougall, who forced him to perform oral sex on MacDougall multiple times.

"He targeted younger inmates, inmates who had been sexually abused in the past and/or inmates who had little experience in jail," said Zastowny. "He would routinely offer favours to the inmates or would threaten them in order to get them to comply with his requests for sexual favors."

The story of MacDougall's predatory nature did not become generally known until a former prisoner stepped forward in 1996. MacDougall, who had worked for B.C. Corrections Service since 1976, resigned under investigation in 1997. In 2000, he was convicted of nine counts of sexual assault or indecent assault on five prisoners. The assaults occurred between 1980 and 1991. Zastowny was one of the five. MacDougall served three years and seven months imprisonment for the crimes.

Zastowny filed suit against the government of British Columbia. The trial judge awarded him $150,000 for lost wages, $50,000 for future lost wages, $60,000 for general damages and $15,000 for future counseling. The government appealed. The Supreme Court reduced the past lost wages award by 80%, cutting it to $30,000 because Zastowny had spent 12 of the previous 15 years in prison and the Supreme Court held that he could not recover for lost wages while he was in prison. Likewise, the Supreme Court reduced the $50,000 future lost wages award by 30% to $35,000 on the basis that Zastowny was at great risk to reoffend. The Supreme Court rejected Zastowny's claim that the imprisonment was a direct result of the sexual abuse he suffered at MacDougall's hands.
The Supreme Court let stand the remaining awards, so that the previously $275,000 total award was reduced to $140,000.

The government had previous paid several settlements in cases involving MacDougall. However, it took the position that Zastowny's imprisonment was the result of his own decisions in leading a life of crime and he should not receive compensation for it. Many other of MacDougall's alleged victims, some still in prison, have filed civil claims against the government and MacDougall. Source: The Canadian Press.

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