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Investigating Three Decades of Sexual Abuse by a Saint John, NB Police Officer

Victor Lewin - Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The class action law firm of Wagners is investigating a class action for the harm caused by the sexual abuse committed by former Saint John police officer Kenneth Estabrooks. The class action lawyers at Wagners have experience in handling class actions in New Brunswick and are the largest class action firm in the Maritime Provinces. The decades of sexual abuse shows that there are important systemic issues which need to be answered by the New Brunswick Courts. Why did it take so long to come to light? What knowledge did the Police Force have about these abuses? What systems were in place to protect the victims of sexual abuse? These questions can be answered in a New Brunswick class action for the benefit of all sexual abuse victims, making a class action the best means to pursue justice.

On Monday, September 30, 2013, investigators from a Toronto firm made a shocking announcement. Upwards of 263 children may have been sexually abused by a member of the Saint John, New Brunswick police force. The abuses may have commenced as early as 1957 and continued for decades.

The City of Saint John hired Investigative Solutions Network to conduct an investigation into the conduct of Kenneth Estabrooks. Estabrooks, who passed away in 2005, was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to six years in prison for abusing numerous children while he was employed as a police officer.

Most of the victims were male and many were subjected to repeated abuse over varying time periods. Some were abused for many years by Estabrooks. While the investigators have identified over 50 individuals who suffered abuse, they also determined that more than 30 others have passed away. ISN is still searching for close to 200 other children who encountered Estabrooks during his career as an officer. Still more victims may be uncovered as the investigations continue.

The victims are now in their 40s, 50s and 60s, and suffered abuse from as early as 6 years old. Like most predators of children, Estabrooks preyed on the weak and vulnerable children, focusing his efforts on abusing children who grew up in the impoverished section and neighbourhoods known as the South End in Saint John. In his position as a police officer, Estabrooks had a role of authority and used this to his advantage by falsely arresting or detaining children from the South End where no one would question his reasons due to the poverty and broken home life that these children grew up in.

As early as 1975, when two young boys made allegations against Estabrooks and a subsequent investigation found him with a young man in his squad car, it was clear that the scope and magnitude of the abuse was horrific. Estabrooks, who even admitted at the time to being a sexual abuser of youths, did not face any serious consequences whatsoever. The City of Saint John lost an opportunity to put an end to Estabrooks deviant ways in 1975. Instead of being fired or charged, Estabrooks was merely transferred to another role within the municipal government, the city works department. He remained employed with the city until he retired. It was only in 1997, after new complainants came forward that another investigation began, resulting in charges being filed and ultimately a conviction being obtained.

In 1999 the New Brunswick Police Commission announced that the original 1975 investigation was carried out in an unprofessional manner and may have contributed to Estabrooks continuing paedophilic urges. The Commission found that the City of Saint John police force failed to recognize the seriousness of the allegations made against Estabrooks. By failing to lay charges against a known and admitted pedophile in 1975, the city inevitably allowed Estabrooks to continue his reign of terror against more innocent victims. The crimes that Estabrooks had already perpetrated from the 1950s to mid-1970s went unpunished. In essence, the City of Saint John gave him free reign to add to his tally of victims. The Commission found that the 1997 investigation was excellent and lauded its mandate and felt no further actions were required.

However, now more than a dozen years after the 1999 commentary from the Commission, further victims came forward in early 2012. These new allegations served to discredit the 1997 investigation. While questions have been asked about that investigation, nothing has been said by the City of Saint John Police force as to why these new victims were not found back then.

Even the recently hired investigative team wonders why now, close to 60 years later, there is no accounting for why Estabrooks was allowed to roam and devastate so many young people in Saint John for so many decades. And why are victims still being found?

This legacy of abuse began some 60 years ago. Now, in 2013, the municipal government in Saint John has invested nearly half a million dollars in the investigation of Estabrooks actions. While it is laudable that the City of Saint John is now investing resources, money and time to look into the heinous actions and crimes of Estabrooks, at present all that is being offered to the victims of the terrible abuse is an offer of paid counselling.

While counselling may now help some of the victims heal and have their dignity restored, what is to be done for them for the abuse they suffered, some for many years? And what is to be done for them for the decades that they have lived with the pain, suffering and psychological trauma that they have endured? All of which is due to the fact that an employee of the City of Saint John was allowed to continue to perpetrate horrendous abuse on so many young children as a result of the municipal government and city police force not using the opportunities that they had to halt the terror.

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