Taylor French says she is ready to “have a life” now that her stepfather, Allan Dean Griffin was found guilty of sexually assaulting her when she was a child.
French, 22, has lived with the trauma of the abuse she suffered when she was between five or six years old lasting until her early teens. The justice system failed her three years ago when Justice K. D. Yamauchi, basing his decision on faulty preconceptions, found Griffin not guilty, forcing an appeal and eventually a new trial.
It took French testifying three times against her stepfather before a verdict of guilty on two counts of sexual assault involving minors was handed down against Griffin, 49, for assaulting French and her biological sister Kylie.
Griffin, who was out on bail throughout the trial, was taken into custody on March 29 following the verdict. Justice John McCarthy denied defence lawyer Paul Brunnen’s request to allow Griffin bail until sentencing and requested he be placed in custody immediately, eliciting tears of joy and hugs between Kylie, Taylor and Griffin’s biological daughter Jordyn Griffin.
“It’s a relief, like it gives me a sense of peace knowing that I’m safe and have someone behind bars who can no longer get to me,” said French, who is waiting for the sentencing in May.
“I’m hoping he goes away long enough that I can start over and have a life without looking over my shoulder and not being afraid. My biggest hope is to have my own life away from this mess.”
Lisa Fox, the mother of the Kylie and Taylor, who also has a biological child with Griffin from the years of their ‘on and off’ relationship, said she was happy justice has finally been served but lamented the arduous process inflicted upon her children.
“Griffin’s denial of these crimes caused unnecessary hardship on our entire family. Seven years of psychological trauma was inflicted upon my children through the process of the criminal trials for no reason other than what I must interpret as the accused trying to delay or escape justice,” said Fox in her victim impact statement.
“He could have saved so much heartache and pain if he would have just owned up to his crimes seven years ago. The girls could have started the healing process. Instead, they were re-victimized each time they had to repeat their statements and testify on the stand.”
Standing with her mother and sisters last Wednesday, Kylie said the trial was hard on everyone.
“It’s a personal thing, we have to relive every time that it does come up,” Kylie said. “I’m just glad it is over with and I don’t have to relive the situation anymore.”
While Griffin stands guilty on the charges levied by his stepdaughters he was acquitted of those involving his biological daughter, Jordyn Griffin, who cried silently in the hallway after the verdict.
“Even without those charges, he is getting exactly what he deserves and he is exactly where he needs to be,” said Jordyn.
The 2013 trial with Justice Yamauchi took four days in early November and the Justice ruled after a month of deliberation.
“When I walk into the courtroom, I go completely numb and blank out … I don’t even remember the other trial because you shut it out and it’s kind of a blur,” Taylor explained.
While Justice Yamauchi had concerns with the Griffin’s credibility three years ago, calling his testimony “self-serving” and “not believable,” the judge still made the decision to acquit due to “reasonable doubt.”
“What is of more concern to this court is some of the more innocuous things that the complainants could not remember, such as when they lived at certain places,” Yamauchi stated.
The judge also voiced his concern that neither of the mothers “noted anything that might have caused them concern over the behaviour of their daughters.”
“One would have thought that any one of the complainants might have mentioned the incidents to someone in passing. None of them testified that the accused threatened them if they said anything … accordingly, one might have reasonably thought that something might have come out.”
“He looked right at us mothers in the stands and said, ‘I can’t for the life of me understand why these mothers didn’t know anything,’ and right then and there, it brought me to tears,” Fox shared.
Griffin was acquitted on Dec. 6, 2013.
An appeal was filed five days later.
“I knew justice hadn’t been served and there had to be a way forward on this,” Fox said.
The appeal was approved on May 1, 2015 and a new trial was ordered.
The analysis of the appeal found the Justice Yamauchi “erred” in relying on “discredited myths and stereotypes” about sexual abuse, especially involving children.
“The Crown also argues that although the trial judge stated the correct legal principles for evaluating the evidence of child witnesses, he then misapplied them,” the appeal stated.
Now, after seven years dealing with the Canadian Justice System, Taylor said a “weight has been lifted” off her shoulders.
“Now people are trying to see the bigger picture. This is a really horrible reality and they should be taking steps to ensure people are heard and not just forgotten about,” Taylor said.
“People are starting to open their eyes and they are starting to take people seriously for this offence. This is happening to multiple people on so many levels, it is horrible and now people are saying something and giving themselves a voice – it’s starting to make people realize they need to change a lot at how the justice system looks at these crimes.”
Yamauchi is one of four Alberta judges under scrutiny for “controversial rulings” including Calgary Justice Robin Camp who made headlines after asking a sexual assault complainant why she couldn’t keep her “knees together.”
As a response, Rona Ambrose the MP for Sturgeon River-Parkland, tabled a Bill at the end of February called the Judicial Accountability Through Sexual Assault Law Training Act (JUST Act) which would make sexual assault law training required for any lawyer who wants to become a judge.
“I’m very happy that somebody finally heard these girls and Dean has some consequences and he needs to answer to somebody,” said Dawn Griffin, Jordyn’s mother.
Jordyn said she is not filing an appeal after the recent verdict.
“So far it’s nothing but positive vibes. We are so excited it’s all over finally,” Jordyn said.
“The next step is moving on with life and being happy – not to constantly relive this crap anymore.”