A series of allegations online and media coverage sparked a police investigation into Steve Wallace, the well-known owner of Wallace Driving School in Victoria.
Wallace’s lawyer says he is relieved, but the damage is already done.
“It’s very difficult for a person to have their reputation rehabilitated after allegations such as this in the community that has gotten so much publicity, even if charges are not approved,” said Wallace’s defence lawyer Dale Marshall.
It all began back in September when Aiko Oye hired Wallace to learn how to drive.
Oye says Wallace made sexual comments, touched her hand and shoulder without consent.
“He said I love you about 15 times to me,” Oye told CHEK News on September 7.
She created an Instagram account detailing her personal experience, then others telling their own stories of Wallace’s alleged inappropriate behaviour and touching came flooding in.
“My sister’s friends and then their friends knew people. I’ve had messages from as early as the ’70’s,” Oye told CHEK News on October 5th.
Some women brought their stories to Victoria Police. In October, VicPD recommended three counts of sexual assault to crown counsel: one from 2011, and two from 2021, including Oye’s.
After reviewing the evidence submitted by police, crown counsel concluded Wednesday that “the charge assessment standard had not been met for any criminal offence and no charges will proceed.”
Crown has to determine if a criminal offence took place, if they’re likely to convict, and if it’s in the public’s interest in order to charge someone with a criminal offence.
“It’s the end of it so far as we know now,” said Marshall.
But for Oye, it’s far from the end of the road.
“It was extremely discouraging to hear the charges weren’t approved…This is not a matter of over-sensitivity, it is a matter of inappropriate conduct that has been brushed over and allowed to carry on for decades…This is very far from over,” Oye told CHEK News in a statement Thursday, declining an on-camera interview because of the harassment online she’s faced since charges were not laid.
Meanwhile, civil sexual assault lawyers say there are more options to pursue.
“The crown that makes the decision about charge approval isn’t the last word in the criminal justice system. They answer to a regional crown counsel and that person can be asked to review the decision,” said Megan Ellis GC, a civil sexual assault lawyer with three decades in the field.
Other options are taking it civil, but Ellis says there are a number of obstacles to that process. It’s expensive, and the crown’s recent decision to not lay charges makes it more likely the defendant will resist a civil claim.
The other option would be to apply to receive what’s called victim compensation.
“All they’ll get is money for counselling, at $80 an hour…But they will not find a counsellor who works for $80 an hour,” said Ellis GC, who has written the provincial government to update the price which she says hasn’t been updated in 20 years.
Meanwhile, Oye says she will be speaking with her lawyers next week to consider a class-action lawsuit.
The allegations against Wallace — unproven in the court of law — led ICBC to permanently revoke his teaching licence. It also led to DriveWise BC, a driving school that operates on Vancouver Island, to install video cameras inside all of its vehicles.