Ontario’s provincial police force will review roughly 4,000 sexual assault investigation reports filed between 2010 and 2014 that police deemed “unfounded,” according to the Canadian Press.
The Ontario Provincial Police will assess those cases in light of a recent Globe and Mail investigation called “Unfounded,” a 20-month probe into how police handle sexual assault allegations and why one in five claims are considered “baseless.”
The Globe collected data from nearly 900 police forces and found that sexual assault cases are considered unfounded at a much higher rate than other types of crime.
According to the Globe’s report, which referenced research from North America, the UK and Australia, truly unfounded cases due to false reports cover between two to eight percent of all reported sexual assaults. They found that 42 percent of sexual assault complaints result in charges — Statistics Canada reports 44 percent do — but that figure doesn’t include unfounded cases.
When unfounded cases are factored in, the percentage of complaints that lead to charges drops to 34.
Toronto’s rate of unfounded sexual assault allegations sits at 7 percent, or 772 out of over 11,000 allegations.
The OPP now joins police forces across the country — including those in York, Saskatoon, and London — that have committed to review unfounded cases after the Globe’s investigation was published last Friday. RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said on Monday that the serves as a call to adopt and implement the best possible practices, and that sexual assault complaints are handled consistently.
OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes told the Canadian Press that if their assessment concludes that any of the cases previously deemed unfounded were not properly investigated, they’ll reopen them.
“We want to ensure that all reports during that period were properly classified when received; that the incidents were appropriately investigated; and that the correct classification was used when the investigation was completed,” Hawkes said.
He added that it will take some time to review the “unfounded” cases, but that they will expand their review “if warranted.”
Hawkes said the OPP takes every report of sexual assault seriously and encouraged victims to continue to come forward. He said they use all the resources at their disposal to conduct “complete, thorough and professional investigations.”
“I want all victims of sexual assault or any crime to have confidence in the OPP and our ability to investigate crimes and bring those responsible to justice.”