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The Klassen story:
Breaking through to the public

Saskatoon family calls for apology in malicious prosecution lawsuit

REGINA (CP) - The dozen people who successfully sued investigators for malicious prosecution in a bizarre but unfounded sexual abuse scandal want the Saskatchewan government and police to apologize.

Lawyer Robert Borden said the 12 members of Richard Klassen's family and extended family deserve official recognition that they have done nothing wrong in light of last week's civil court ruling that found they were victims of malicious prosecution. "These people were wronged. These people were innocent. That is clear," Borden said Monday.

"Surely these parties should have the courage to come forward and say that the judge was right.

"That is not an admission of liability. That is simply doing the right thing."

Officials with both the Justice Department and Saskatoon police said they are reviewing the decision and will comment as early as the end of the week.

"There needs to be a decision on whether or not there needs to be an appeal," said Justice spokeswoman Deb McEwen. "It's not a final judgment."

The Klassens were wrongfully charged based on accusations by three young foster children in 1991. The three claimed they were forced to eat eyeballs, drink blood and participate in orgies while in the care of the Saskatoon family.

Police called it the "Scandal of the Century" at the time, but in 1993 charges against most of the accused were stayed to avoid further "trauma" to the children.

In the years that followed, each of the children came forward to admit the stories had been made up, but officials never acknowledged publicly that the Klassens were innocent.

The Klassens filed a lawsuit and last week Queen's Bench Justice George Baynton ruled that three of the four lead investigators - Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck, therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys and Crown prosecutor, Matt Miazga, - were malicious in their pursuit of the case.

Baynton called the situation a "travesty of justice" and said the real scandal was how the plaintiffs were treated.

The lawsuit claimed $10 million in damages, but Baynton did not rule on compensation. Borden said he hopes a figure can be negotiated out of court.

"What we are looking for first and foremost is an apology," Borden said. "Until that is done, this leaves a black cloud over all of our clients."

Richard Klassen, who represented himself in the lawsuit, echoed that sentiment.

"Compensation talks can come later," Klassen said. "What we want is an immediate apology.

"It is the road to the beginning of a healing process."


Justice system takes grave hit

The latest body blow to Saskatchewan's teetering justice system and Saskatoon's beleaguered police service comes from Queen's Bench Justice George Baynton's scathing attack on prosecutorial and police misconduct detailed in a civil suit won by 12 plaintiffs.

Matthew Miazga

Baynton found Crown lawyer Matt Miazga (right), Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck and child therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys acted maliciously to prosecute Richard Klassen and 11 others over bizarre and incredible allegations of ritual sexual abuse involving four foster kids in 1991.

Although Klassen, who represented himself in the lawsuit, professed that he has a "whole new faith in the Saskatchewan justice system" as a result of Tuesday's blunt ruling, the rest of the province's citizens have ample reason to worry.

Baynton didn't announce what damages he's awarding in the $10-million malicious prosecution lawsuit, although his language suggests taxpayers can expect to part with a fair amount. After all, when the court notes a "travesty of justice visited upon plaintiffs," details how "lying children wreaked such havoc ... on the lives of innocent people" and refers to "individuals who foolishly and maliciously acted together to charge and prosecute the plaintiffs," you can guess the award will be more than a token amount.

Far more important than any dollar sum for which taxpayers will be liable, however, is the need to address the serious problems with the province's justice system and the Saskatoon police force that are once again highlighted in this case.

Brian Dueck

From Brian Dueck's (right) taking his shaky case to Miazga when Crown prosecutor Terry Hinz already had rejected it for lacking credible evidence, to Miazga authorizing the then corporal to lay charges without so much as looking at the videotaped interviews with the children whose testimony alone would form his case, Baynton pulls no punches about the wrongness of the process.

He wonders how the case got to court even though Dueck and Miazga said they disbelieved all the ritualistic and satanic abuse allegations of the children, especially when "none of the defendants has ever clarified just what it is that he or she did believe of the various allegations made by the children."

In fact, the judge's feelings about Dueck and Miazga's testimony in his court clearly is revealed in his observation that he wasn't satisfied that their "professed inability to recall" even memorable and significant events "was always genuine."

Carol Bunko-Ruys

As for Carol Bunko-Ruys (right), Baynton suggests that the therapist, "by withholding and in fact attempting to stifle evidence" about a child witness who had recanted her allegations about ritual abuse by the foster parents, "may have run the risk of being charged with the criminal offence of obstructing justice."

Baynton hit the mark when he noted the problems in this case should warn social workers, as well as police and prosecutors, about "the real threat to society of overzealous child protection responses, fuelled by politically correct or trendy ideologies of the day, that are relied upon as a justification to overrule objectivity, reason, common sense and tested and tried legal traditions."

Baynton goes on to suggest that his ruling "does not imply that the defendants lack repute or are incompetent. Reputable and competent people at times make mistakes and do things that they should not have done. Although such people must be held accountable for their mistakes, they can learn from those mistakes and, in doing so, will be better equipped to carry on their respective professional practices."

However, despite Baynton's magnanimity, the fact remains that the Saskatoon police department and Justice face huge credibility problems because of Dueck and Miazga's deplorable conduct in this case. Strong disciplinary action must be forthcoming.

Dueck has been promoted to a superintendent with the Saskatoon service while Miazga is a senior prosecutor at Justice. Without a thorough vetting of the decision-making and accountability structures of these agencies, there can be no public confidence that horrendous miscarriages of justice such as those involving the Klassen and Kvello families in this case aren't repeated, because of malice or incompetence.

It's time for Justice Minister Frank Quennell to explain clearly how he plans to deal with the fallout from Baynton's ruling and order a public inquiry into a department in which fewer Saskatchewan residents have confidence each day.


A harsh lesson

The sexual exploitation and assault of children is among the most heinous of crimes in a civilized society and it's little wonder that politicians and police officers alike have made it a top priority.

Bringing those who would prey on kids to justice is a noble task and not without its rewards, and it's also apparent that the prosecutors of these crimes should approach them with as much caution as zeal.

The final chapter of what has been more than a decade of horror came to a conclusion in a Saskatoon court last week, when Queen's Bench Justice George Baynton ruled the case against Richard Klassen and 11 others had been a "travesty of justice" and they had been subject to a malicious prosecution.

The case, which was branded the "Scandal of the Century" when it first broke, alleged that Klassen abused the children through bizarre and demonic rituals. The events that supposedly took place against three Saskatoon-area foster children touched off a national media feeding frenzy but we at the Sun urged caution and skepticism until the evidence was presented in court.

When the case did come to trial, it appeared almost immediately that the evidence was obtained under some dubious and unprofessional means. Other than a minor sexual assault charge against one individual, the scandal collapsed like a pup tent in a hurricane, leaving the reputations of Klassen and 11 others in shreds.

The judge ruled that zeal overtook reason and said proceeding with the case constituted a "strong presumption of malice."

This is not the first time that claims of bizarre satanic rituals involving children have hit the headlines.

In most cases the enthusiasm of prosecutors and social service agency workers has so clouded the children's evidence as to make it all but worthless. But in the meantime, reputations of innocent people have been ruined and their lives will never be the same.

While Saskatchewan's government must attempt to restore its credibility and fairly compensate the real victims, Alberta's own Justice Minister Dave Hancock should not stand smugly by.

There's a very important lesson to be learned from the Klassen persecution.

Clear-cut protocols must be developed - and made public - instructing crown prosecutors how to proceed with cases involving children's evidence.

And specifically, controls should be placed on intermediaries like social workers and psychologists to make certain that what the children experienced is actually true and not drawn out of the alleged victims by inducement or threatening circumstances.

Because, as the Klassen case clearly shows, there are two kinds of victims in child abuse cases.

And that's a crying shame.


Suffer the adults

The finding of malicious prosecution in a Saskatoon child abuse case should sound a cautionary note to all those in the child-welfare industry who still buy into the myth that children never lie.

It is incredible that police, the Crown and social workers could actually believe, based solely on the word of some emotionally disturbed foster children, that Richard Klassen, his wife, Kari, and several other adults skinned newborn babies and forced kids to eat eyeballs, drink blood and do other equally bizarre things. Were the authorities so naive they never questioned the impossible premise that the Klassens would have had to have access to a steady supply of newborn babies?

The charges were finally dropped when the children admitted they'd lied, and now the plaintiffs are seeking more than $10 million in damages. Let's hope they get it. The zealots who see child molestation around every corner have successfully sold society a peculiar perception of children as saintly truth-tellers. Meanwhile, the number of cases of adults whose lives have been ruined by phoney accusations continues to grow.

The only sacrifices committed in the Saskatoon case were made by the officials who sacrificed the most elementary principles of justice on the twin altars of pop psychology and political correctness.


Welcome end to the 'Age of Abuse'

The burden of proof in cases of malicious prosecution is so great a decision rendered last week in Saskatoon, involving sensational allegations of child abuse, is thought to be the first-successful lawsuit against a Saskatchewan crown attorney. It's an important judgement that will surely take its place as a pillar of Canadian jurisprudence with respect to the testimony of children and the authority of psychotherapists and other practitioners of the mind-probing arts.

Billed at the time as the Scandal of the Century, the original 1991 case saw the arrest of 16 people, mostly members of the same extended family, in connection with the supposed abuse of three foster children. Stories included an all-too-familiar litany of satanic practices involving cannibalism, human waste and dead babies. These charges, it turned out, originated from the eldest of the three children, a boy who had been removed from the household for having abused his sisters and who sought revenge. All three siblings have since recanted their testimony.

However we deplore the performance at the time of the prosecutor, police investigator and child therapist who put so many innocent people in custody and caused them so much pain and humiliation, it is worth recalling the crazed environment in which these charges arose.

The early 1990s might well be remembered as the Abuse Era, when anti-family ideologues held the stage and psychotherapists eagerly sought "repressed" memories from their vulnerable (and paying) clients.

The media did their bit by trumpeting baseless allegations as if they were guilty verdicts in waiting, and finding experts to tell us shocking abuse was everywhere. All those quiet suburbs where families apparently led productive lives were seen, however briefly and absurdly, as ghettos of domestic violence and maltreatment. Movies riffed on the theme while self-help gurus published books aimed at would-be survivors. A comparison with the Salem witch trials of 1692 is not overdrawn.

The madness has now largely subsided, and lessons have been learned. A few cases await resolution. Only last year - a long decade after his arrest - a police officer falsely implicated in the even more sensational case of a day-care centre in Martensville, Sask., was offered an out-of-court settlement and apology.

It's important to recognize children are maltreated in Canada and elsewhere and that these cases need to be prosecuted vigorously. But to do so in defiance of the evidence and common sense is as bad as doing nothing at all.

To make malicious prosecution a criminal offence, as the Saskatoon victims recommend, is probably unnecessary given the clarity of this civil judgement. Prosecutors and therapists everywhere have been suitably warned. Late as it might be, this is a welcome development.


Which witch will we hunt next?

Everybody knows about the witchcraft trials in 17th-century Salem, Mass. -- a calamity that saw 19 people hanged unjustly, and a 20th pressed to death with stones for refusing to testify before a civil authority gone mad. The "witch hunt" has become our favourite metaphor (or cliche?) for justice perverted by mass delusion. Yet it is rarely noticed how quickly the judges and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts realized their collective error. The first accusation was made in February 1692, and the trials ran from spring to fall; but by October, the public had realized that the process was out of control, and the court that sentenced the innocents to death was dissolved. The remaining prisoners and suspects were all freed and absolved by May of the next year. In 1697 the colony held a formal day of atonement for the crimes committed in its name.

We don't judicially crush or hang people to death in Canada now, but we are relatively slow to admit our mistakes. On Tuesday, 12 people accused in 1991 of molesting and terrorizing a trio of foster children in Saskatoon were found by a Queen's Bench judge to have been victims of malicious prosecution. The verdict is no surprise: The children confessed long ago that they invented the over-the-top stories of abuse they told adult investigators in exchange for praise and rewards. (They said, for example, that they had been forced to eat human eyeballs and watch babies being skinned.) The case has earned the cognomen of the "Scandal of the Century," yet a very similar miscarriage of justice happened, at around the same time, just up the road in tiny Martensville. And these are just two instances in a series of international disasters symbolizing the Satanic-abuse dementia that gripped the continent in the 1980s and early 1990s.

It is already becoming hard to comprehend the origins of these trials. Thanks ultimately to a few little books written by a handful of liars and nut cases -- and thanks to the abysmal absence of rigour in the psychological profession -- otherwise rational cops and prosecutors became convinced that large numbers of ordinary, respected citizens were cult members, capable of ravaging children in seclusion and concealing it from their fellow townsfolk. In both Martensville and Saskatoon, the authorities went to trial in an utter vacuum of corroborating physical evidence, building conspiratorial narratives about Satanism on the testimony of intimidated children.

It would be nice if those of us in towns not tainted by international disgrace could reflect with satisfaction on our own superiority. Yet what happened in Saskatoon and Martensville happened elsewhere just the same way: Malden, Mass., Wenatchee, Wash., and Manhattan Beach, Calif., have earned their own notoriety. The contributing factors to abuse panics vary from place to place; sometimes it's a child-welfare bureaucracy out of control, sometimes it's a cop shop in disarray that gives the wrong file to a rookie. The common element has been the presence of therapists who insisted on the prevalent orthodoxy that conspiratorial multi-offender sex abuse of children is common, and that children never, ever tell falsehoods about such matters.

Mercifully, these axioms are pretty much out the window now. Genuine experts have conducted controlled experiments with children, showing beyond doubt that you can implant fictional memories quite easily through cajoling and aggressive questioning. Child-abuse investigators are trained to interview children as neutrally as possible, using techniques appropriate to each child's level of cognitive development and sophistication. Everything is videotaped at every stage of an inquiry, and the police know that they will end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit if they rig the game, deliberately or inadvertently.

In other words, we've learned what we ought to have known all along. People like Richard Klassen, the best-known plaintiff in the Saskatoon civil proceeding, had to pull a heavy weight up that learning curve. A former housepainter with a Grade 7 education, Mr. Klassen became a familiar sight on Saskatoon streets, protesting continually, after he and his family were charged. He was sued for defamation by his tormentors, and won. He represented himself in the malicious-prosecution suit, mastering the rules of the Queen's Bench. Now he has revealed that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the fall of 2002 and delayed surgery to work on the suit. Only now will he be examined to learn how far the disease has progressed.

One is almost taken aback by such wolverinish toughness -- but what would you do if you had a "child molester" sign hung on your neck by the Crown, and you were innocent? There is no escaping a stigma of that sort: Fighting to the bitter end is the only practical option. You can't help thinking that being pressed to death might, on the whole, be kinder.


Accused were the real victims

The 12-year fight by the family of Richard Klassen to clear their names is a damning indictment of Saskatchewan's justice system. Klassen and 11 other family members had been accused of horrendous child abuse in 1991 by three young foster children in the family's care.

Police in the province called the case the "Scandal of the Century," since it involved accusations of the children being forced to eat eyeballs, participate in orgies and watch as babies were skinned and burned. There was nothing to back up the children's claims and the prosecutors stayed the charges against most of the family members, saying they wanted to avoid further trauma to the youngsters.

But Klassen and his family struggled to clear their names and protested their innocence for more than a decade. In that time, two of them died, many others suffered stress and several lost their jobs. In the meantime, the three young accusers recanted their testimony. That should have ended the case, but because there was no official declaration of the Klassens' innocence, the family launched a lawsuit. This week, a judge ruled the Klassens were innocent victims of malicious prosecution by the lead investigator, a therapist and a crown prosecutor involved in the case. So now the family members' names have been cleared. But it should never have taken this long to clear things up.

Let's hope the Canadian justice system learns to be more careful when its prosecutors lay such serious charges. Let us also hope some better system is put into place to prevent people in a position of authority from making such malicious and groundless accusations in the first place.


'Clear our names,' family matriarch pleaded

It was 1995 and 56-year-old Marie Klassen was on her death bed, losing a battle with breast cancer.

Wrongfully labelled a demonic pedophile, the matriarch of a family ripped apart by horrific accusations of abuse used her last breath to put her children on a mission.

"Clear our names," she urged daughter Pamela Shetterly with her dying breath, her last sentence to her children.

Eight years later Marie got her wish. Earlier this week, a judge confirmed what the family has known all along. Saskatchewan's so-called "Scandal of the Century" was a fabrication and three of the four investigators that tried to put 12 of the Klassens and others behind bars for child molestation were malicious in their pursuit of the case.

"I feel vindicated in some ways," said Richard Klassen, Marie's son. "My mother was the best friend I ever had."

It was a long road for him and his family. The spectre of the allegations they faced tore them apart and the fight for vindication wore them down.

"Some of the people have had mental breakdowns. They have not been repaired. Two of the plaintiffs have died, undoubtedly from the stress," he said.

"How do you describe how you feel when you are charged with child molestation? The first thing on your mind is tell everybody you didn't do it. But nobody wants to believe you."

The ordeal began in 1991 when foster child Michael Ross and his twin sisters, Kathy and Michell, began telling stories about the abuse they had suffered while in the care of Klassen's brother and sister-in-law.

The children said they were forced to participate in orgies, eat eyeballs and watch babies being skinned and burned, but there was nothing to corroborate the claims.

Police initially thought they had unearthed the "Scandal of the Century," as they were quoted as saying at the time. However, in 1993, prosecutors stayed the charges against most of the family, saying they wanted to avoid further trauma to the children.

In the years that followed, the children publicly admitted they made up the stories.

But when there was no official declaration of the family's innocence, Klassen filed the lawsuit.

Shetterly said the situation created divisions among family members. Some thought they should have just let the case go away.

"We have this great tragedy in common, but we have rarely gotten together in the last years because to look in each other's eyes is to mirror each other's pain and we can't do that," she said.

"We will carry this for the rest of our lives."

One woman, who can't be named because two of her children were charged in the case as young offenders, said she lost the ability to trust others.

She also lost her job as a special-care aid and her husband, who was also accused, died before the judge ruled on the lawsuit.

"My heart is broken so bad I don't think it can ever be repaired completely," she said. "The pain will never go away; it is so deeply imbedded."

Some of the Klassens have made their peace with their young accusers. Each of the children took the stand during the lawsuit to revoke their claims. They still keep in touch with some members of the family.

"They are children who were traumatized, in one shape or another, by their pasts," Shetterly said. "What is tragic is they didn't get the kind of help they needed."


Klassen accuser praises judgment

One of the twin sisters who falsely accused Richard Klassen and his family members of abuse more than a decade ago says she's pleased with a judge's recent ruling.

"I'm really, really happy. I kind of knew the judge would go for the right decision," 21-year-old Kathy Ross said in an interview from her B.C. residence.

"There was just way too much evidence there to go the other way."

On Tuesday, Justice George Baynton of the Court of Queen's Bench released his decision into the Klassens' malicious prosecution lawsuit. Baynton found that child therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys, Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga and Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck maliciously prosecuted Richard Klassen and 11 other plaintiffs.

In the early 1990s, Richard Klassen, his wife and other family members were wrongly accused of sexually abusing Kathy Ross, her twin sister Michell and the twins' older brother Michael. The Ross kids were the foster children of Richard Klassen's brother, Peter Dale Klassen and Peter Dale's wife Anita.

The bizarre allegations included detailed accounts of satanic ritual abuse, which included animal and human sacrifice, as well as claims the children had been forced to eat feces and drink urine.

Police arrested 16 people in 1991, but charges against 12 individuals were stayed in 1993, while Richard Klassen's father, Peter, pleaded guilty to sexual assault as part of a plea bargain to spare his family members. The birth parents and a family member were found guilty, but the decision was later overturned by the Supreme Court.

The children later recanted their stories, and Michael Ross was found to be abusing his sisters.

Klassen and the others then sued for in excess of $10-million, alleging malicious prosecution. Lawyers for police, prosecutors and the therapist, meanwhile, argued the officials were simply doing their jobs.

"The lengthy civil trial that was conducted before me demonstrates how lying children wreaked such havoc, not only in the lives of the innocent people who were charged with numerous serious criminal offences founded on the children's allegations, but also in the lives of the individuals who foolishly and maliciously acted together to charge and prosecute the plaintiffs for those criminal offences," Baynton said in his 189-page judgment.

In the interview, Kathy Ross said she was happy to help out the Klassens by testifying at the civil trial. She said she didn't get as emotional as her sister, but rather "kind of held it in.

"I think I was scared and nervous, you know, but I also knew that I had to do the right thing," she said.

"I think it really opened my eyes, because that was the first time I actually talked about it a lot like that. So I think it was a healing process for me."

Despite the hardships the Klassens have endured over the years, the family has maintained contact with the Ross sisters, and, to a lesser extent, Michael Ross, Richard Klassen said.

"But with the two girls, certainly they call us mom and dad and whatever. They have ever since they apologized," he said. "They've always considered us their parents. They don't have any parents."

Klassen said he believes Michael Ross still lives in Saskatoon, but he "travels around."

He said he has forgiven the children, who were once wards of the government, and believes they should have gotten "immediate attention for their sexual abuse problems that they were having with each other."

Klassen said the Ross twins still blame themselves for what happened to his family.

"They always apologize and they're always saying they're sorry, and they don 't have to do that."

At age 21, Michell Ross is currently in Pine Grove Correctional Centre in Prince Albert, "since she keeps breaching little things and going back," he said. Her two children have been "taken away by social services," according to Klassen.

Kathy Ross said her sister is "still fairly hurt" by past events and recently got 40 days at the correctional centre for breaching probation. Michell Ross will be released on Jan. 10, said Kathy Ross, who also has a 17-month-old son in foster care.

According to Klassen, Michell Ross is an extremely intelligent person and is the most emotional of the three siblings.

"After she testified and everything, she gave me a plaque," he recalled. "You know, she was thinking about me and my nerves. And it just said 'spend the day thinking about yourself and calm down. You're doing good.' So she's a really caring child."

While the Ross twins may now be celebrating Klassen's legal victory, their thoughts have also turned to their own legal future.

In 2001, around the time of their 19th birthdays, they launched a lawsuit of their own. The sisters are suing Dueck, Bunko-Ruys, the City of Saskatoon board of police commissioners, the province of Saskatchewan and a number of other parties, according to a statement of claim filed with the Court of Queen's Bench.

The statement of claim alleges the defendants "owed a duty of care" to the Ross sisters to prevent each of them from being placed in a position where they suffered or were likely to suffer physical harm, suffered or were likely to suffer a serious impairment of mental or emotional functioning and were or were likely to be exposed to harmful interaction for a sexual purpose.

It also alleges the defendants knew Michael Ross was sexually assaulting each of the plaintiffs.

In an interview Wednesday, Robert Borden, lawyer for the Ross twins, said Baynton's judgment is "very, very helpful" for the Ross lawsuit. No date has been set for a civil trial, he said.


Klassen demands probe of officer

Dueck's actions may merit investigation of obstruction

The Saskatoon Police Service has been asked to investigate the actions of Supt. Brian Dueck in the Klassen malicious prosecution case.

Richard Klassen said Wednesday he believes the department has already begun a formal probe into whether Dueck obstructed justice in the early 1990s in the course of investigating bizarre sexual and ritualistic abuse allegations.

Klassen was among 16 people charged with more than 70 counts of sexual abuse involving foster children. In 1993, all the charges were stayed after one person pleaded guilty to four sexual assault charges.

On Tuesday, Dueck, prosecutor Matthew Miazga and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys were found liable for malicious prosecution. The 12 plaintiffs were seeking more than $10 million in the civil case.

After the decision was released, Klassen said he believed criminal charges against the three defendants were warranted.

Dueck, who is now in charge of records management at the department and earns about $100,000 a year, is still on the job. He has declined comment on the judgment. His lawyer issued a statement said his client may appeal.

Klassen said he filed a formal complaint with city police in October. He said the case has been turned over to two investigators.

"They called me and we had a meeting. We came to the conclusion that we would wait for the judgment and see what would come about. I suspect in the new year will be meet again. That's my expectation."

In the civil judgment, Queen's Bench Justice George Baynton said Dueck conducted a shoddy investigation of the sexual abuse allegations and ignored evidence that would have cleared the accused.

Baynton said the police officer was blinded by his zeal "to turn the wild allegations into a high profile case that would portray him as a diligent and unrelenting protector of abused children."

"He (Dueck) should be suspended until a complete and full investigation is completed," said Klassen.

Police spokesperson Acting Insp. Al Stickney had no comment when contacted Wednesday. Police Chief Russell Sabo is expected to make a statement on the judgment next week.

Mayor Don Atchison, who is also chair of the city's police commission, said he will wait until after the commission's Jan. 15th meeting before commenting. Atchison said he needs time to study Baynton's decision and consult with the city's legal department.


Klassen wants doctor investigated

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan will be asked to investigate the professional conduct of the Saskatoon doctor who examined the foster children at the centre of the Klassen malicious prosecution case.

Richard Klassen, one of the 12 people wrongly accused of sexual and ritualistic abuse by the children, said Wednesday he intends to send the decision of Court of Queen's Bench Justice George Baynton to the college.

He wants an investigation into the conduct of Dr. Joel Yelland, who was harshly criticized by Baynton in his 189-page judgment.

And Klassen said he may launch a separate lawsuit against Yelland, the president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA), for playing a part in the malicious prosecution.

"The judge pretty well invites us to sue Dr. Yelland in the judgment. He's inviting, almost instructing us, to do that."

Baynton ruled that prosecutor Matthew Miazga, Saskatoon Police Service Supt. Brian Dueck and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys were liable for malicious prosecution.

In 1991, Klassen and 15 others were charged with more than 70 counts of sexual assault. In 1993, charges against 12 individuals were stayed just before criminal trials were set to begin.

Peter Klassen, the father of Richard Klassen and several of the accused, pleaded guilty to four sexual assault charges.

The birth parents of the foster children and a family friend were found guilty, but the decision was later overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Baynton noted Dueck and Miazga relied upon the medical reports of Yelland as corroboration of the sexual abuse allegations.

He said Yelland's expert opinion evidence was adduced and relied upon by Miazga at each preliminary inquiry.

Baynton said Yelland made statements of fact based solely on unsubstantiated allegations of the children rather than on physical examinations.

He continued, "in my respectful view, his involvement in establishing the Saskatoon Sexual Abuse of Children Protocol and the volume of his practice that resulted from social services referrals, clouded his professional judgment and blinded him to any other conclusions than one that was consistent with the wild stories the children were telling him."

Yelland was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Bryan Salte, the college lawyer and associate registrar, said it's premature to discuss anything related to Dr. Yelland because no complaint has been laid.

Salte said when the college receives a complaint related to quality of care or judgment issues, it must determine whether they are reasonable grounds to believe the physician was guilty of unprofessional conduct or incompetence before proceeding with a disciplinary hearing.

"The threshold for that is fairly high. The fact that someone made a bad judgment does not mean it's unprofessional conduct. The legislation and bylaws say failing to maintain the standards of the profession is unprofessional. But it has to be so far removed from what is appropriate medical judgment that no reasonable physician would have made the decision."