EDMONTON — Alberta’s premier denied accusations on Monday that her government rushed to judgment in its handling of a child sex-assault case to protect its reputation.
Redford told question period her Justice Department investigator has not reached a pre-determined conclusion on what led prosecutors to recently drop charges against a central-Alberta man accused of assaulting a girl for years.
“There will be a full investigation,” Redford told the legislature during question period. “It has been undertaken and the results will come forth in due time.”
The premier also said it was shameful for the Wildrose party to suggest that the investigator, Greg Lepp, will do what the government tells him because he once exonerated prosecutors in another unrelated case.
“This is not a political matter. This is our justice system!” said Redford.
“The fact that any member of this Opposition — this, quote, loyal Opposition — would suggest that any person who is a Crown prosecutor who is a public servant responsible for prosecuting on behalf of the Crown is somehow beholden to political loyalty is offensive.”
The case surfaced last Thursday when Wildrose house leader Rob Anderson brought it up during question period.
With the OK of the victim’s family, he said the case was dropped three years after charges were laid because the accused had yet to come to trial due to a shortage of prosecutors.
Under the Charter of Rights an accused has the right to a trial within a reasonable amount of time.
Lepp, the associate deputy minister for the Justice Department, was tasked to look into it.
He confirmed to reporters that the charges had been dropped and could not be re-activated.
But he said the problem was not a shortage of Crown prosecutors.
He said bad weather and illness prevented witnesses from attending court.
Add to that there was late-breaking evidence, he said.
In question period Monday, Anderson questioned the timing of Lepp’s findings.
“Within only four hours of asking this question — four hours! — the investigator Mr. Gregg Lepp concluded that a lack of prosecutors categorically was not a factor,” said Anderson.
“In fact, the Crown wasn’t at fault at all. It turned out to be weather and illness. And he didn’t even have to talk to the victim to figure all that out.
“Premier, is your investigator an omnipotent human being, or has he been sent to whitewash this entire scandal?”
Redford said Lepp’s comments were preliminary findings and the full investigation will proceed.
The Wildrose called for an outside investigator to examine the circumstances of the case, but Redford said she is confident in the Justice Department to handle it.