A man wrongfully convicted of raping a young girl over 40 years ago will soon be fighting for compensation in court, although many of the documents surrounding his case have disappeared.
Gerald Barton, a black man originally from Jordantown near Digby, was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1970. His case was reopened in 2008 and the verdict overturned after the woman admitted she had lied and her brother had allegedly sexually assaulted her since she was nine.
A DNA test proved the child who was born after the rape wasn’t Barton’s.
In 2011, a judge ruled that Barton had been a victim of a “miscarriage of justice” and on Thursday his lawyer said the province had broken the promises they made following the Donald Marshall Jr. case – that no one faced with wrongful conviction should have to fight for compensation.
Marshall Jr. was a Mi’kmaq man wrongfully accused of murder in 1971 and cleared by a commission in 1990 that showed racism had contributed to the conviction.
“As far as the black community is concerned, nothing has changed and the lessons we should have learned from Marshall have been forgotten,” said Dale Dunlop.
Dunlop said Barton’s trial against the RCMP and provincial attorney general begins April 7, and the province has “refused” to take responsibility for the case although there was no trial or guilty plea entered.
Only a certificate of conviction remains, and a statement the RCMP say Barton made confirming he had sex with the girl, which he denies.
Dunlop said he has never gotten a logical reason for why Barton’s case file at the courthouse, RCMP file, and probation file have disappeared.
“Whatever happened to Gerry was so far outside the scope of a normal judicial process it’s hard to imagine,” said Dunlop.
They are not asking for the same compensation Marshall received, Dunlop said, but something “fair and reasonable for 40 years of stigma of being a convicted sex offender.”
Cases like Barton’s continue to hurt Nova Scotia’s image, Dunlop said, since immigrants might not want to come here when they read about the mistreatment of minorities.
“This is more than just about stiffing Gerry Barton, this is about the black eye we continue to give to this little part of Canada,” he said.
“It impedes our progress.”