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October 28, 2017 6:07 am

Trial of Former Ft. St. James Fire Dept. Chief Underway

Monday, January 26, 2015 @ 4:52 PM

Prince George, B.C. –  The  trial of the  former  Chief of the Ft. St. James  Volunteer Fire Department is underway.

Robert Harold Bennett is facing three counts of  sexual assault, all stemming  from allegations from three adult women .

Complainant Kirsten  Rudolph-Smith  who had  been a volunteer fire fighter,  testified  “The tone at the firehall was not the same  as  you would expect at a church picnic”.  She said there were rude jokes,  colourful language “It was a very testosterone rich environment”.  She blamed Bennett for setting that ‘tone’.

She painted a picture of a Chief who was often intoxicated, made rude  gestures,  suggested  they  have sex,  and on more than one occasion touched her breasts.When asked by Crown if she had  consented to the conduct, Rudolph-Smith replied “I joined the fire department to fight fires, not to get molested by the Chief.”

Rudolph-Smith  testified she  would discover she was not the only  female volunteer to have such encounters with Bennett.

Crown had  requested that information  in this trial that would identify the three complainants  be  the subject of a publication ban,  citing the small size of the community  in which the  incidents are alleged to have taken place.  Justice Glen Parrett pointed out that  all three  complainants are adult women,  that the  details of the allegations have been  publicly reported in  a paper that services the Ft. St. James community.  He noted  there had been at least three proceedings  on this case,  including a letter to the District of Ft. St. James which was dealt with in a public meeting.  He said two of the complainants had spoken to a reporter and are identified in the articles “Their identity has been revealed in at least 3 different ways that cannot be retrieved” said Justice Parrett, “This cow is long out of the barn and there is no way to put it back in.”

The Crown expects to call 10 witnesses, including the three complainants.  The trial is expected to  last all  week.


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