In the bitter world of child custody battles, some parents are coaching their own kids to make false sexual abuse complaints - with disastrous results for everyone, experts say.
"We're very concerned and very conscious of allegations that have inklings that there may be custody and access (issues)," says Staff Sgt. Darren Eastcott of the Edmonton police Zebra Child Protection Centre, which investigates allegations of child sex abuse.
"When we are aware of them, we're very concerned about that and very careful of them. If there's a custody or access (dispute) ... there's a little bit of a brighter red light on it," he said. "There's nothing worse than to have somebody falsely accused of these kind of things."
Police don't keep statistics on how many abuse complaints relate to custody battles. But Eastcott said his unit typically encounters such situations a couple of times each month.
The centre even employs a full-time child welfare worker who specializes in custody and access disputes. Investigators have encountered cases where the same child has made allegations multiple times and investigators concluded they weren't being honest, Eastcott said.
"Parents should certainly not be involving kids in custody disputes. That's not fair emotionally to the child, let alone the former spouse," said Karen Smith, director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.
"I just have no patience for that. There are so many people who have legitimate sexual abuse issues that it's not fair to waste the police or child welfare's time investigating. However ... the numbers of false allegations are very small."
Cops can charge people with public mischief for fabricating a complaint to police, but it's not always worthwhile when a child is caught in the middle, Eastcott said.
"The police do not want to continue kids being used as pawns in custody proceedings."
Of 725 child sex abuse complaints investigated by Edmonton police in 2000, 2001 and 2002, only 160 - about 22% - resulted in criminal charges being laid. But that doesn't mean the other 565 cases were all false allegations, Eastcott said.
Then what were they? Remember, in 1992 prosecutor Matt Miazga said he was staying charges against the Klassens and Kvellos in Saskatoon because the children were "too traumatized to testify." On December 30, 2003, he was found to have been malicious. --Sheila Steele
"For example, if you have a victim who is too distraught and is not able to participate in the court case, sometimes we either stay the charges or suspend files until they're ready."
Some cases are resolved through mediation, while in others police can't gather enough evidence to make a conviction likely, so they don't consider it worthwhile to put a child through the pain of testifying, he said.
Abdulahi Mahamad: It is three years since the cops arrested him in his own home, handcuffed him in front of his children, took him to the police station where they strip-searched and held for over 30 hours. The charges did not stick, but any police check on him now shows him as an accused sex offender whose charges were stayed. The police are still up to their old tricks as the above article shows.
Edmonton - There were more police chases in Edmonton last year than in much larger Canadian cities, including Toronto and Vancouver.
Officers were involved in pursuits 232 times in 2003, compared to 176 in Toronto and 98 in Vancouver. The number of chases in the city has more than doubled in the past four years.
Number of chases in 2003:
Edmonton - 232
Toronto - 176
Montreal - 142
Winnipeg - 132
Vancouver - 98
Calgary - 70
Ottawa - 31
Windsor - 11
"Looking at the graphs, of course it looks like it's out of proportion," Mayor Bill Smith, who has defended the chases as a necessary part of policing, said when shown the numbers.
Smith says the police service will have to do its own comparison, to make sure the cities calculate chase statistics the same way.
"That's always something that's important," he said. "I'm not trying to make light of it. But that's something the police service really needs to defend."
Using numbers obtained from eight police services across the country, Edmonton had the highest number of police chases by far at 232. Toronto had the second highest with 176, while Montreal had 142.
Rod Gregory, president of the Criminal Trial Lawyer's Association, says Edmonton needs to look at how other cities govern chases.
"We certainly want to make submissions to the police commission, provide research if we can," he said. "And we hope the police commission will look at expert evidence in the area to see whether or not there ought to be changes made."
The Edmonton Police Service's policy on chases will be discussed Friday morning at the police commission meeting.
Smith, who will attend Friday's meeting, says he's received a number of calls about the number of chases since the information became public.
"I'm getting calls on both sides of it. Good for the police and this is dangerous," he said.
Police commission chairman Martin Ignasiak has said they will investigate the high number of chases, which leaped to 232 in 2003 from 101 in 1999.
Calgary had 70 police chases last year. And while the number in that city decreased by about 40 per cent once it began using a helicopter, Edmonton saw a jump of 56 per cent after the Air-1 was introduced in 2001.
Police have said a number of factors affect the number of chases, including an increase in auto thefts and a growing population.
On July 24, two teenagers who were running from police in a high-speed chase died when their car hit a tree. Police had called off the pursuit two blocks before. Crack cocaine was found in the wreckage.