Ottawa Citizen
Tuesday 12 December 2000

Woman's actions 'gross abuse of power'

Outreach worker gets conditional sentence for false accusation

Jake Rupert
The Ottawa Citizen

Patrick Doyle, The Ottawa Citizen / Cathy Fordham claimed she was assaulted by a resident at the Vanier Community Support Group where she worked.

A community outreach worker who abused her power in numerous ways narrowly avoided jail yesterday when a judge granted her a conditional sentence.

In a scathing decision, Justice Jack Nadelle said Cathy Fordham's actions clearly warranted a jail term.

However, since she is not a danger to the public, he allowed her to serve six months in the community under a strict house arrest policy for falsely accusing Alan Kamen of assault.

"This is a particularly nasty case where a totally innocent person was accused of a serious crime," Judge Nadelle said. "Fortunately, Mr. Kamen was not charged or taken to jail, but this is a serious case and deterrents are needed."

He then proceeded to give her a six-month sentence -- the maximum he could because the Crown had opted to proceed summarily on a single charge of public mischief.

In the summer of 1998, Mr. Kamen and Phil Francois, both of whom testified at Ms. Fordham's two-day trial, were living in a house at 249 Bradley St. in Vanier. The house was run by the Vanier Community Support Group, under the direction of Ms. Fordham, who lived at the house.

The men said they were fed up with her abusive ways and the power she wielded over them at the house so they left. But before they did, Ms. Fordham confiscated their belongings.

On Aug., 12, 1998, a dispute erupted when they showed up with a police escort to get their things. According to police notes, Ms. Fordham was menacing and manipulated the situation to thwart the men's efforts, but they eventually got their belongings and left.

A day later, Ms. Fordham told police Mr. Kamen had beaten her at about 1 a.m. that night while she was praying at a grotto outside Vanier city hall. However, after an investigation, she ended up being charged.

Under cross-examination during her trial, Ms. Fordham, who had been backed into a corner by assistant Crown attorney Debra Hanscom, suddenly accused Mr. Kamen of also sexually assaulting her that night -- the first time she had made that allegation.

In the end, Judge Nadelle, who heard the case, didn't believe much of what she said.

"I didn't find Ms. Fordham to be a believable or credible witness," he said in court. "She changed her testimony when it suited her, she cried at strategic moments, other times she was combative or evasive."

After the finding of guilt, a pre-sentence report and a psychiatric assessment were done to assist the judge in meting out a proper punishment.

In the pre-sentence report, done by a probation officer, Ms. Fordham insisted Mr. Kamen assaulted her. However, she told doctors who did the psychiatric report, she may have been mistaken about who, exactly, assaulted her that night because she had consumed drugs and alcohol.

Yesterday, Judge Nadelle noted that this amounted to making her testimony at trial perjury.

"It's clear Ms. Fordham is prepared to say whatever will help her in different situations."

The psychiatric report also found Ms. Fordham, 30, is suffering from mental problems, but that none would serve as a sufficient explanation for her actions.

Ms. Fordham, nor her lawyer, commented yesterday. She is still facing another public mischief charge for falsely accusing another person of a crime. That case is still winding its way through the system.

Copyright 2001 Ottawa Citizen Group Inc.