A Nova Scotia man wrongly labelled a rapist for 40 years testified today at his civil trial against the RCMP and provincial government that being a convicted sex offender has greatly damaged his life and career prospects.
The case of Gerry Gaston Barton, who is now 63 and living in Morinville, Alta., opened Monday morning in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in Halifax. Five days have been set aside to look into the miscarriage of justice.
"I just want to get this done and get on with my life. I have not been a happy person for the last 40 years," Barton said. "[It's] something that's just eating away at me for the last 40-something years."
When he was 19, Barton was accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl who lived near him in Digby County. He says he never stood trial and always denied guilt, but was convicted and sentenced to a year's probation in 1970.
In 2008, the girl, now an adult, admitted she had lied. Her brother had sexually assaulted her and was the father of her child, she told RCMP. Barton's conviction was quashed in 2011 when DNA evidence cleared him.
The woman's name is protected under a publication ban.
Barton told the court Monday the girl's father asked for $900 to keep the matter out of court, but Barton did not have that much money.
He told the court that the day after the father asked for money, RCMP arrived with a summons. His lawyer asked him Monday if he ever touched or sexually assaulted the girl.
"No, I did not," he answered.
His lawyer asked him why he did not fight the conviction. "I never had any money, never had anyone who would listen," Barton responded.
He said he never went to the RCMP detachment and the RCMP never took a statement from him. A typed statement supposedly given by Barton was presented at his preliminary hearing.
He said Monday he did not give the statement, which included words such as "orgasm" and "ejaculate." He said he would not have used such words as a 19-year-old.
The girl falsely testified in 1969 that he had come out of the woods, entered her house and sexually assaulted her.
Government won't apologize
The government has refused to apologize to Barton or discuss compensation. The government says few records remain from his 1970 conviction.
Barton is suing the the attorney general of Nova Scotia and the attorney general of Canada for their handling of his case.
Last year, his lawyer, Dale Dunlop, said this is another example of the flaws in Nova Scotia's justice system.
"I would hope with Donald Marshall and our history of mistreatment of minorities that things would have changed, but I guess they haven't."
Barton added he wished his mother and father were alive to see him exonerated.
"The case speaks for itself. I was wrongly accused and falsely accused of a charge that never happened. I wasn't there. It should have never taken place. Instead they just lied about it and kept it hidden," said Barton.