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B.C. jail guard accused of 200 sex assaults in class-action against province

Proposed lawsuit says B.C. failed to do anything about the assaults while they occurred for 2 decades
The Fraser Regional Correctional Centre is one of four Lower Mainland prisons where former jail guard Roderic David MacDougall is accused of sexually assaulting inmates between 1976 to 1997. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A proposed class action lawsuit is accusing a former B.C. jail guard of sexually assaulting more than 200 inmates, and taking aim at the province for its alleged failure to do anything about it.

Filed in the B.C. Supreme Court on Monday (April 15), the lawsuit claims that the BC Corrections officer preyed on “younger,” “physically fit” men across four Lower Mainland prisons from 1976 to 1997.

The jail guard named, Roderic David MacDougall, has been the subject of dozens of civil lawsuits and several criminal investigations over the last several decades – including one resulting in sentencing. Monday’s filing is the first to take a class action approach, though, aiming to hold the provincial government to account as the body that employed MacDougall over two decades.

The lawsuit claims B.C. systemically failed to “investigate, prevent, and report the sexual assaults,” despite hearing rumours and complaints of MacDougall’s alleged activity for years from both inmates and other corrections officers.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

According to the claim, several officers reported their suspicions about MacDougall beginning in 1980, while he was working at Oakalla prison in Burnaby. They allegedly told management MacDougall would interview younger inmates in his closed office for 45 minutes at a time, and that they believed he was sexually assaulting the men.

The lawsuit claims MacDougall would force the inmates into sexual activities by promising them favours or threatening them with violence, and then, after the fact, tell them to keep quiet unless they wanted their lives to become more difficult.

In addition to preying on the men in his office, the lawsuit alleges MacDougall would also sexually assault them in a vehicle used to take inmates to and from the prison.

Reports of his behaviour by both inmates and fellow prison employees continued into 1996, with no action taken by BC Corrections, according to the lawsuit. It wasn’t until a formal interview with an inmate in April of that year, in which the man accused MacDougall of sexually assaulting prisoners, that management ordered MacDougall to stop working directly with inmates, the lawsuit says.

However, the lawsuit says that order was revoked and the report against MacDougall was removed after he complained of the change.

In 1997, MacDougall wrote a letter to management complaining that other corrections officers were harassing him. As a result of that, the lawsuit says, a retired police chief investigated the matter and, in the process, documented the sexual assault allegations against MacDougall.

He resigned from BC Corrections that year, on the same day the retired police chief released his report.

Monday’s class action lawsuit claims the province has never taken any steps to investigate how MacDougall got away with his actions over more than two decades and what can be done to prevent something similar from happening again.

Since 2002, more than 200 former inmates have accused MacDougall of sexual assault and went on to sue either him, the province or both. About half of the cases have been resolved so far.

MacDougall was also convicted in 2000 on multiple counts of sexual assault, indecent assault and extortion against five inmates who had been incarcerated at Oakalla. He was sentenced to three years, seven months in jail.

RCMP recommended further charges against MacDougall in both 2002 and 2010, but Crown didn’t approve them either time, the class action says.

If certified, it will be representing anyone who has not settled or pursued legal action against MacDougall.

The B.C. Attorney General has not filed a response to the claim as of publication. Asked Tuesday (April 16) for comment, the ministry said it couldn’t do so while the case is before the court.

Black Press Media contacted MacDougall by phone and left a voicemail, but did not hear back as of publication. He is retired and living in Metro Vancouver, according to the lawsuit.

READ ALSO: B.C.’s role should be considered in guard’s alleged sexual assault of inmates: lawyer