HALIFAX — A British sailor accused in an alleged gang rape at a Halifax-area military base has been acquitted.
Darren Smalley was charged with sexual assault causing bodily harm and participating in a sexual assault involving one or more people in barracks at 12 Wing Shearwater on April 10, 2015.
Justice Patrick Duncan delivered his verdict Friday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, saying the complainant’s testimony was not credible.
Smalley showed no emotion after the verdict, while the young woman held her head down.
Outside of the courtroom, Smalley told reporters he was relieved.
“It’s been four years of my life,” he said. “It’s took a toll on me mentally and physically.”
Ian Hutchison, Smalley’s lawyer, said his client will now return to the United Kingdom and will be “moving on with his life.”
“It’s a very difficult day for him, it’s a very emotional day. It’s a difficult day for all the parties before the court this morning,” said Hutchison.
The woman and a friend had met the men, members of a Royal Navy hockey team in Halifax to compete in a tournament, through Tinder.
The complainant testified at Smalley’s trial last fall that she went to sleep next to a sailor, and later awoke face down and naked as at least three men sexually assaulted her.
Duncan said he did not believe portions of her testimony, as she was selective in her memory. Her testimony was inconsistent with the accounts of other witnesses who were inside the barracks that evening, he said.
Duncan said she is intelligent and well-spoken, but characterized her testimony as “controlled.”
“It’s impossible to know where the truth begins and ends in this matter,” the judge said.
Prosecutor Eric Taylor said the Crown disagrees with Duncan that the complainant’s testimony was not credible.
“The credibility was the central factor in this case,” said Taylor outside of court. “We felt the inconsistencies were minor and that the complainant’s credibility was clear throughout, but the court found differently.”
Four men had originally been charged, but charges were dropped against two of them before trial, while another man’s case was stayed after he became ill.