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‘Jane Doe’ charges dropped after week in jail over Burnaby mall water-throwing incident

Obstruction charges against a woman arrested at Metrotown mall on Nov. 16 have been stayed without police or court officials ever knowing her name.
A woman known only as Jane Doe stayed behind a wall in the prisoners dock during a bail hearing in Vancouver provincial court Wednesday.

A woman who allegedly threw water at a security guard at the Metrotown mall has been released after spending seven days in jail without police or court officials ever knowing her name.

“Jane Doe” was arrested at Metropolis at Metrotown on Nov. 16 after she refused to identify herself to a police officer.

Police had been called to the mall after reports someone had thrown water at a security officer who had asked them to leave, according to information presented in court.

The suspect in the case was a woman, but she refused to give police her name, so she was charged with one count of obstruction and taken into custody pending a bail hearing.

Fingerprinting unsuccessful

Seven such hearings were scheduled in the week after the incident, but six of them went nowhere.

The woman refused to go to a video room for video appearances; she refused to talk when she was in the video room; and she refused to be transported to court for in-person appearances.

Attempts to identify her via fingerprinting were unsuccessful, according to Crown prosecutor Karen Haughton.

One judge ordered a psychiatric assessment, but the woman twice refused to go to the room where the assessments are conducted, according to Haughton.

Court officials managed to get Jane Doe – the name assigned to her in court documents – to Vancouver provincial court in person for her seventh bail hearing Wednesday, but she hid behind a wall in the prisoners dock.

B.C. provincial court Judge Nancy Adams left her bench during the hearing to confirm the woman’s attendance in court.

“She doesn’t want to come out. If the sheriffs didn’t have a concern, I’d go up and talk right to her face,” Adams said.

Public interest?

Defence lawyer Colleen Elden asked the court what the public interest was in keeping the woman in jail.

“She threw a glass of water on the loss prevention officer,” Elden said. “She’s been in custody for seven days, and, without sounding presumptuous, I would think she’s at time served even if she were to be convicted.”

Haughton said the public interest was ensuring the woman wasn’t wanted on any other outstanding warrants.

Information provided by police and corrections staff suggested the woman was dealing with mental health issues, according to Elden, and the court’s forensic liaison nurse recommended the woman should be seen by a doctor.

But Adams said that should already have happened inside the jail.

“They have doctors who should be able to attend daily at the pretrial facility, so, if she should have been seen by a doctor, it shouldn’t be waiting for a court to say that. That should have been done within the last week.”

‘She’s fallen into a deep crack’

If Crown continued with the charges, Adams said she would release the woman with no bail conditions since there would be no way to ensure Doe would abide by any orders since no one knew who she was.

“I appreciate we have a woman who has not identified herself, has chosen to stand behind a wall and not participate in the (court) proceeding,” Adams said. “I’m going to make assumptions from what I’ve heard it’s due to ongoing mental health issues or significant challenges or vulnerabilities in her life that make it impossible for her to attend in front of the court. That’s no reason to make a person, who may be very severely mentally ill, in custody, given what I’ve heard about the outstanding charges.”

Hearing the judge’s position, Haughton said the Crown was prepared to drop the charges.

“I’m sorry if I’ve forced your hand,” Adams said to Haughton, “but I don’t see another option regarding this distressed young woman … It’s just a failure. She’s fallen into a deep crack, unfortunately, in the system.”

The charges against Doe were stayed and she was released.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor