Judge refuses to step down from case involving distant relative

An NWT Supreme Court judge has refused to step down from a sexual assault case involving her second cousin.

Judge Shannon Smallwood read her decision in court on Thursday.

It followed an application from Yellowknife defence lawyer Charles Davison introduced in court on Wednesday.

It called on Smallwood to disqualify herself from the sexual assault case due to a perceived bias.

Davison is the lawyer for 40-year-old Michael Shingatok who was found guilty by a jury in June of sexual assault and assault on a female victim.

It turns out the victim and Smallwood are second cousins – both are originally from Fort Good Hope.

Shingatok is to be sentenced by Smallwood who presided over the trial but did not find Shingatok guilty- the jury did.

Not only did Davison want Smallwood to recuse herself from the case – he applied to have a mistrial declared and his client freed from jail pending a second trial.

Smallwood refused, saying that she did not know the woman prior to the trial and she did not know the woman was her second cousin until after the trial.

She said she understands the importance of a judge not having a conflict of interest but in this case she had none because she had never even met her second cousin until the trial and even then didn’t realize they were related.

Smallwood says she does have second cousins whom she does know and if they were to be in front of her in court she would have to recuse herself but that’s simply not the case here.

Outside court following the decision, Davison said that his only course of action now is to appeal Smallwood’s decision to the NWT Court of Appeal after Shingatock is sentenced.

He did not indicate whether he intends to do that.

Shingatok is to be sentenced by Smallwood on Sept. 24.




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