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City of Vancouver settles with Ivan Henry over wrongful-conviction lawsuit

Ivan Henry (CP).

VANCOUVER — A British Columbia man wrongfully imprisoned for sex crimes for nearly three decades says he's "one third of the way done" a lengthy lawsuit after reaching a settlement with one of the defendants.

B.C. Supreme Court heard on Monday that the City of Vancouver has settled for an undisclosed amount with Ivan Henry, who spent 27 years behind bars before being acquitted of 10 counts of sexual assault in 2010.

The two parties reached an agreement midway through the trial, which began in late August, but the province and the federal government have not settled and remain defendants.

As part of the deal, the city unequivocally withdrew its allegations that Henry was still guilty despite his acquittal, according to a statement read by his lawyer John Laxton.

The trial was to establish Henry's right to compensation, but Laxton noted during the hearing that the city hadn't accepted the B.C. Court of Appeal's ruling that his client had been wrongfully convicted in 1983.

"That withdrawal has been a very important part of the agreement, as far as Mr. Henry is concerned," said Laxton.

"It exonerates me in my own way," said Henry outside of court. "I'm feeling all right, but we'll see down the road what the rest of it brings.

"We're not done yet."

The drawn-out trial has been "very difficult" for Henry, said Laxton.

"I would say even traumatic," he said. "The fact that this city has withdrawn all these allegations is a great relief to him."

The settlement resolves any claims for damages Henry made through the city against the Vancouver Police Department.

Laxton said earlier in court that a photo of a police lineup that included Henry was "seriously flawed and unfair" and "the bedrock point of the failed police investigation."

The photo showed Henry being held in a chokehold by officers.

The court was also presented with excerpts from a complainant's handwritten letter that was sent to the private address of a police officer involved in the investigation.

"I didn't want to let you down. I didn't want to disappoint you,'' wrote the complainant in the letter, which Laxton read to the court.

"You have a very special place in my heart and I think of you often. Take care of those blue eyes and don't work too hard.''

Laxton said the letter explained why the complainant identified Henry.

During the year following his acquittal, Henry took the province, the federal government and the city to court for damages.

Henry and his two daughters filed as many as 40 applications over more than a quarter century before he was acquitted.

Henry's daughter, Tanya Olivares, called the settlement with the city "positive."

Kari Rietze, Henry's other daughter, died of an overdose earlier this year after turning to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain she felt living through her father's ordeal, said Olivares.

Neither the terms nor the amount in the settlement with the city have been released.

The trial is scheduled to resume Nov. 23 with evidence being called by the province.

The province is asking the court to appoint an amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," to make submissions that would have been made by the city.

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

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