Two prominent women’s advocates are questioning how a man charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement was released on bail only to be charged with sexually assaulting two more women earlier this year.
Peter Tsetta, 48, has a long criminal history, including convictions for violent crimes. Right now, he faces three counts of sexual assault, two counts of forcible confinement, one charge of simple assault and another count of uttering a threat to cause bodily harm.
The charges were laid in connection with three separate incidents since March involving three different female victims. Two of the sex assaults are alleged to have occurred while Tsetta was out on bail for a third alleged sexual assault and forcible confinement.
On March 30, RCMP issued a news release stating there was a warrant for Tsetta’s arrest for sexual assault and forcible confinement. Police stated they were requesting public assistance to locate him.
“There is no immediate threat to the public safety at this time, however due to the seriousness of the allegations and warrants for arrest, we are asking the public’s assistance in bringing this individual into custody,” stated Marie York-Condon, civilian media liaison for NWT RCMP. “If you see Peter Tsetta, do not approach him and call RCMP immediately.”
Later that same day, RCMP issued an updated news release stating Tsetta had been located and arrested. He appeared in court on April 3 and was released on $500 bail by Justice of the Peace Ruth McLean. The reasons for her decision to grant Tsetta bail are covered by a publication ban.
Since he was released on bail, it is alleged Tsetta sexually assaulted two other women in mid-May and on June 17.
Lyda Fuller, executive director of the YWCA, said she wants to know what criteria was used in releasing Tsetta on bail.
“I am appalled that this man was released to (allegedly) re-offend and harm more women,” she said. “Clearly our work with women who experience violence leads us to a stricter definition of who is a threat to public safety that is used by justice officials.”
This sentiment is echoed by Samantha Thomas, executive director of NWT Status of Women Council. She described the RCMP’s description of Tsetta as not being a threat to the public as “odd.”
“We … have concerns around what risk assessment protocols were used and whether an assessment was conducted,” she stated via e-mail. “Did the RCMP provide an assessment to the JP? If so, did the JP take this into consideration when making their decision?”
Thomas said this situation should spark a discussion into how to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future.
In June, one of Tsetta’s alleged victims spoke out after he was charged with sex assault and forcible confinement on her on June 17.
The woman, whom Yellowknifer did not name as her identity is protected by publication ban, said she wanted to go public with her story in order to encourage other women to report assaults.
“You may have been a victim but you do not have to remain a victim,” she said at the time. “Even if it’s not the police – speak to a counsellor.
Later that month, women’s advocate Lynn Brooks criticized the court system for failing this woman.
“This particular case is a travesty because if they had kept him in, this (alleged) victim would have been protected,” she said. “I think they really fell down on the job.”
Yellowknifer reached out to the Department of Justice for an explanation of the bail process and what dictates whether hearings are heard by a justice of the peace or a judge. Spokesperson Sue Glowach stated in an e-mail that justices of the peace or territorial court judges may hear all bail matters except for offences such as murder, which are dealt with in Supreme Court. She stated circumstances such as timing and location tend to be the deciding factor.
“There is no set rule or guideline,” she stated.
Annie Piche, Crown prosecutor on the case, said based on the information she has on Tsetta, she will be opposing his release on bail.
The Mounties will not say where any of the attacks are alleged to have occurred, claiming they are doing so to protect the victims. The woman from the June attack told Yellowknifer Tsetta forcibly confined her at his Ndilo residence.
Yellowknifer asked the RCMP on what basis Tsetta was deemed to be no threat to the public, and how revealing the date and general location of the offences negatively affects the victim.
York-Condon said details of the assaults may come out in court hearings. As for how Tsetta was deemed not to be a threat, she stated RCMP obtained a warrant for an arrest due to the seriousness of the charges.
“At that time, there was no indication of other victims and at that time, there was no reason to believe there was an immediate threat to public safety,” she stated.
York-Condon did not say by press time whether a risk assessment on Tsetta was provided to the justice of the peace handling his April bail hearing.
Yellowknifer also asked Justice Minister Louis Sebert for reaction to the issue but he had no comment.
Tsetta appeared in Justice of the Peace Court last week and waived his right to a bail hearing. He is scheduled to be back in Territorial Court on Aug. 22. It is unclear if he will be seeking bail at that time.
He is currently in custody at the North Slave Correctional Complex.