Suspected serial rapist loses bid to get another judge for his trial

Rosie Mullaley
Published on January 21, 2014
Sofyan Boalag was back in provincial court in St. John’s Monday to hear the judge’s decision on an application filed by his lawyers. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

A man suspected in a slew of violent sexual offences has been denied requests to have a new judge hear his case.

The decision was handed down Monday in the case of Sofyan Boalag.

Boalag and his lawyers had filed an application to have Judge Pamela Goulding remove herself as judge in Boalag’s trial on the basis that there was a reasonable apprehension of bias.

Counsel cited two grounds in which the judge may be impartial.

The first was that Goulding had been on the bench for one of Boalag’s bail hearings, after which she rendered her decision to deny Boalag release from jail. As a result, Tim O’Brien argued during a hearing, Goulding should not hear the trial.

Also, lawyers claimed that Goulding has “a relationship” with the justice who issued search warrants.

A warrant to search Boalag’s residence and a warrant to obtain a bodily substance for forensic DNA analysis were both issued by Chief Judge Mark Pike, who is Goulding’s husband.

“An allegation that a judge should recuse herself is very serious,” Goulding said in her written decision. “It strikes at the core of judicial impartiality and attacks judicial integrity.”

However, Goulding said there was insufficient evidence to meet the legal test and thus dismissed the application.

She said there was nothing she said in Boalag’s bail hearing that would indicate she would be biased for his trial.

“Judges are required to make decisions based on only admissible evidence and apply the proper legal test to the matters before them,” she said.

As for the allegation that she would choose her husband’s wishes over her duty as a judge, “Since I have a relationship with the issuing justice, counsel for the applicant must be intimating that I would be influenced improperly in the decision-making process …,” Goulding said, “that I choose matrimonial harmony over proper judicial decision-making.

“There is no reasonable basis on which to conclude that I would be unable to perform my judicial duties and act in a partial manner.

“A spousal relationship alone cannot trump judicial duty.

She went on to say, “No informed, reasonable and right-minded man or woman in today’s society, viewing the matter realistically and practically, and having thought the matter through would conclude that I would be unable to keep an open mind.”

Boalag is due back in court Thursday for a status update on his case.

The 33-year-old, who is originally from Algeria, is suspected of sexually assaulting five women and one teenage girl in 2012 in St. John’s.

He has pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen charges, including sexual assault with a weapon, sexual assault causing bodily harm and sexual interference, robbery, carrying a concealed weapon and possessing stolen property.

He was picked up by police on Dec. 1, 2012, shortly after reports that a man had sexually assaulted women as they were walking home from the downtown area towards the city centre at night.

Other charges were laid in relation to reports he sexually assaulted a girl younger than 16 with a piece of wood in the LeMarchant Road area.

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