Sudbury Star and Harold Carmichael
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A schedules two-week human trafficking trial in Greater Sudbury came to a crashing halt at the start of its second say Tuesday.
Assistant Crown attorney Colleen Hepburn told Superior Court Justice Dan Cornell that she was withdrawing charges of human trafficking and withholding documents laid against Zainab (Gina) Rasool.
Hepburn said she made the decision after reviewing Monday's testimony from the 33-year-old Indonesian woman, speaking with the acrting Crown and an expert in the area of human trafficking, and revewing case law.
The withdrawal was on the condition Rasool enter into a one-year peace bond; its conditions include that Rasool have no contact with the Indonesian woman who had worked and lived in her home, and that she not hire any domestic workers from abroad.
"I can say from the Crown's perspective there can be no doubt the complainant was treated in a manner that was intolerable by Miss Rasool", said Hepburn. "She was forced to work every day, from the time she got up until going to bed late at night. She was never paid, never slept on a proper bed even though it appears there were empty bedrooms in the home. From our standpoint, that is unacceptable. These are conditions the average Canadian citizen would find offensive."
Hepburn said those conditions would also be offensive to Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and labour laws.
Hepburn, hwoever, also said that the evidence heard Monday did not support the charges against Rasool.
"The evidence the Crown appears to be missing is fear of safety of self or another person" she said "I think the fear of safety does not appear to be clear beyond a reasonable doubt."
As for the withholding document charge, Hepburn said "I don't have any direct evident the complainant felt Miss Rasool was withholding the passport."
Hepburn also said the complainant, after coming forward to police, spent some time in an immigrant detention centre, was released on a recognizance, and will be seekign refugee status.
As well, the woman has filed a civil suit against Rasool to get the wages she is owed, as well as punitive damages.
Defence lawyer Glenn Sandberg said the defense had a far different version to present of what went on in the Rasool home, and there would have been evidence that "would have vigorously and vociferously denied all the allegations."
In an interview after court closed, Sandberg said defense evidence would have shown the complainant lived as a member of the family.
"She came and went as she pleased" he said "She was at home alone to her own desire all throughout the school year after she walked the kids to get to the school bus...The court would have seen holiday snaps of the family including the complainant at Wonderland, Niagara Falls, various placed in Toronto, family birthday parties."
Sandberg said it was Rasool's mother who was the complainant's employer, not Rasool, and the complainant was paid by the agency that set up the employment.
"My client was never a part of any of the employment", he said
Rasool 38, now lives in southern Ontario. The offences were alleged to have occurred from April 1, 2010 to April 12 2012.
There is a ban prohibiting publication of the alleged victim's name
On Monday, the illiterate Indonesian woman testified her bed in the Rasool home consisted of a lightweight foam mattress, floral cover sheet and a pillow, placed either on a bedroom floor when she was caring for an elderly woman in the Moonglo subdivision home, or on the basement floor accompanied by a space heater in the winter.
The woman said through an interpreter she worked seven days a week, never got time off, worker "from the time I got up to the middle of the night", handling a wide array of duties including babysitting, cooking, cleaning, washing, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, washing the car in the summer and even helping out at her employer's restaurant business.
The woman also said she never got paid.
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