‘Watching a Wrongful Conviction Unfold:’ Canadian Guilty of Nepal Child Rape

June 11, 2019 Updated: June 11, 2019

TORONTO—An Order of Canada recipient has been found guilty of sexually assaulting children in Nepal after a police investigation and trial his lawyers describe as a travesty of justice.

Sentencing for Peter Dalglish, expected in about two weeks, could see the well-known aid worker jailed for as long as 13 years.

“This has been like watching a wrongful conviction unfold in real time,” Dalglish’s Canadian lawyer, Nader Hasan, said in an interview Tuesday. “We have deep concerns about the process here, both from the perspective of procedural fairness of the court proceedings as well as certain tactics taken by the police and the state.”

The judge, who rendered his verdict late Monday, has yet to release his reasons for the guilty finding. Dalglish, 62, has denied any wrongdoing.

Originally from London, ON., Dalglish has spent years working around the globe. Nepalese police arrested him in the early hours of April 8 last year in a raid on the mountain home he had built in the village of Kartike east of the capital of Kathmandu. Police alleged he had raped two Nepalese boys aged 11 and 14, who were with him.

Pushkar Karki, chief of the Central Investigation Bureau, said at the time Dalglish lured children from poor families with promises of education, jobs, and trips, and then sexually abused them. Karki said other foreign men in Nepal had also been arrested on suspicion of pedophilia.

“There have been some instances where they were found working with charities,” Karki told the New York Times. “Our laws aren’t as strict as in foreign countries, and there is no social scrutiny like in developed countries.”

According to his lawyers, the investigation appears to have originated with rumours at a school in Thailand where Dalglish had been a board member. They say an investigation found no evidence of misconduct.

However, a complaint to the RCMP during that time appears to have led to an Interpol “red flag,” prompting Nepalese police to open an investigation.

His lawyers say investigators repeatedly approached the older boy at home and school to ask about the Canadian. They allege police wined and dined him, bought him school books and offered other inducements. While the two complainants ended up giving damning testimony in court, they gave several versions of their stories at different times, the defence asserts.

Hasan, who said there will be an appeal, said the judge ignored “serious flaws” in the prosecution case.

“There ought to have been reasonable doubt,” Hasan said. “The police intimidation tactics and the police bribes and the police threats ought to have been insurmountable evidence of not just not guilty, but of actual innocence.”

Hasan said the Nepalese legal system, which operates largely in secrecy, bears little resemblance to anything in Canada—or many other countries. Among other problems, courts do not record proceedings or produce transcripts, leading to confusion about what witnesses actually said.

His lawyers say in one incident, a witness helpful to the defence was testifying when the judge excused himself from the courtroom to go eat dinner. They say he told parties to carry on without him and that he would catch up with the court clerk afterwards.

Hasan said Dalglish’s family—his ex-wife and daughter live in the Netherlands and his brothers in Ontario—as well as friends have been standing by him. In addition, he has strong support in Nepal, where two young men he had previously mentored have been visiting him twice daily in prison in Dhulikhel near Kathmandu to take him food.

“Obviously, (it) was emotionally devastating for him—as it would be for anyone, particularly someone who is innocent,” Hasan said of the guilty finding. “But he’s a remarkably resilient human being and it’s helpful that he has a very strong support system. That helps him stay positive.”

Dalglish, who had spent years doing humanitarian work in Nepal, co-founded a Canadian charity called Street Kids International in the late 1980s. He has worked for several humanitarian agencies, including UN Habitat in Afghanistan and the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response in Liberia. He was named a member of the Order of Canada in late 2016.

Recommended