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Public says apology appropriate

Leader-Post, Regina, by James Wood, January 31, 2004

The provincial government could face pressure from the public to apologize to a family falsely accused in a high-profile child sexual abuse case.

A poll conducted by Sigma Analytics for the Leader-Post found that nearly three quarters of respondents had heard of the recent judicial decision that Richard Klassen and 11 other plaintiffs had been the subjects of malicious prosecution by a crown prosecutor, a Saskatoon police officer and a social worker.

Of people aware of the case, 83 per cent said the provincial government should apologize, which it has so far refused to do as it appeals the decision in the malicious prosecution case.

"It's a high level of recognition for any one issue," said Cam Cooper, senior analyst with polling firm Sigma Analytics.

Deputy Premier Clay Serby said Friday that the government has conveyed to the plaintiffs that "this has been a very unfortunate situation for them, we wish they wouldn't have had to go through the process and at the end of the day we're troubled by the way in which this matter has been managed, there's no question about it. We'd hoped that the system would have been a bit more responsive."

However, Justice Minister Frank Quennell and Premier Lorne Calvert have not apologized for the actual prosecution because the matter is before the courts on appeal.

In 1991, Klassen, his wife and others were accused of sexually abusing three Saskatoon-area foster children, with bizarre allegations that included detailed accounts of satanic ritual abuse.

Police arrested 16 people in 1991, but charges against 12 individuals were stayed in 1993, while Richard's father Peter Klassen pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual assault.

The children later recanted almost all of what they had alleged, and the oldest foster child was found to be abusing his younger sisters.

Copyright 2004 The Leader-Post (Regina)