Saskatoon, Canada - The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled a Saskatchewan Crown prosecutor did not act maliciously when he pressed a controversial satanic sex-abuse case against two foster parent families.
In a 7-0 decision Friday, the court erased a malicious prosecution finding against Matthew Miazga.
Saskatchewan Justice Minister Don Morgan praised the high court's ruling, saying it has implications for Crown prosecutors across Canada.
"Every precaution possible should be taken to prevent the prosecution of innocent people, but prosecutors must be allowed to exercise professional judgment without fear of personal liability when they are doing their jobs," Morgan said.
"The Supreme Court has provided a strong judgment that provides that clarity. This is important, not just for Saskatchewan's prosecution service, but for the conduct of criminal prosecutions across the country."
Morgan noted that the federal government and every province except Prince Edward Island had intervener status in the appeal.
Miazga, police officer Brian Dueck, and child therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys were all accused of malice in the 1991 case against the Klassen and Kvelo families based on complaints from three children.
The children told police that they had been sexually abused and forced into satanic rituals including the mutilation and killing of animals, dismemberment of babies and drinking of human blood.
The charges were all stayed after the children admitted to making up the accusations.
The families sued for malicious prosecution and won.
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal later threw out the case against Bunko-Ruys, but found Miazga and Dueck liable.
Dueck didn't appeal; Miazga did.
Justice Louise Charron, writing for the Supreme Court, said a finding of malice must meet a four-point test and the case against Miazga fell short.
She sympathized with the accused foster parents, but ruled for the prosecutor.
"There is no question that the respondents were the victims of a clear miscarriage of justice which undoubtedly had a devastating effect on their lives," she wrote.
"Especially in the absence of an acquittal, it is often difficult for people wrongly accused of such crimes to fully regain their positions in society and free themselves from the stigma and trauma of those false allegations".
"The fact that we now know that the children's allegations of sexual abuse were false, however, does not provide the answer to whether the respondents' action in malicious prosecution against the Crown prosecutor can succeed".
She said the case against Miazga didn't hold up.
"It is my view that there is no evidence to support a finding of malice or improper purpose.
"In light of the respondents' failure to prove malice, it is not necessary to determine whether there was a lack of reasonable and probable grounds to proceed at the time Miazga initiated the prosecution more than 18 years ago".
"Given that the children's allegations are now known to have been false, no useful purpose would be served by revisiting 'the facts' as they appeared at that time".
Since 2004, the Saskatchewan government has paid the plaintiffs in the malicious prosecution suit more than $2 million in a settlement while withholding some additional money pending the outcome of the legal process.
Miazga declined to comment on the Supreme Court ruling, deferring questions to Saskatchewan's Justice Ministry.
The ruling will not effect the settlement payments to the families, Morgan said.
"We acknowledge and restate the innocence of the Klassen and Kvelo families," he said.
"They have suffered immensely. To date they have been paid $2.726 million. There is a balance of $100,000 the province has agreed to pay them and we will make this payment to them in the near future."
Richard Klassen, the man who spearheaded the lawsuit on behalf of the two families, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Justice Charron said the sex abuse accusations had to be put in the context of the early 1990s. At the time, the rules of evidence had changed, eliminating the requirement for corroboration of unsworn evidence of children.
"There was also a prevailing and pervasive doctrine, now debunked but popular among child psychologists at the time, that 'children don't lie about abuse."