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Judge releases Henry from jail pending appeal

Ivan Henry, who was found guilty in 1983 of rape and indecent assault involving eight different women in Vancouver, had his first taste of freedom in 26 years yesterday after he was allowed out of jail while arrangements were being made for the court to hear an appeal of his conviction.

Mr. Henry, who has maintained that he was wrongfully convicted, was not in court in the morning as Mister Justice Peter Lowry of the B.C. Appeal Court read out his decision to issue an "interim release" with conditions.

But his two grown daughters, Tanya and Kari Henry, were there, listening intently. A publication ban prohibits the media from reporting anything other than the decision. The two women, who are in their 30s, hugged in the courtroom with tears in their eyes after the ruling was delivered.

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Outside the courtroom, Mr. Henry's daughters and a son-in-law huddled with their lawyer, Marilyn Sandford, for a quick consultation, but refused to comment to the media.

"This is a very big day for Mr. Henry and his family, his two daughters," Ms. Sandford told reporters on the steps of the Vancouver Courthouse. "It's a very emotional time for them."

Ms. Sandford said the family had asked for their privacy to be respected "as they begin the challenging but wonderful process of bringing [Mr. Henry]back into their family, back into their life outside the federal penitentiary."

The paperwork for Mr. Henry's release was completed by early afternoon, enabling him to walk out of a medium-security penitentiary.

Mr. Henry has been in custody since July 29, 1982, when he was arrested in connection with a string of attacks against women in Vancouver. He represented himself at trial and testified in his own defence. The prosecution relied mostly on eyewitnesses and voice identification evidence from the victims. He was convicted, and declared a dangerous offender a year later. Appeals in 1984 and 1997 were unsuccessful.

However, the B.C. Court of Appeal earlier this year agreed to reopen the case after a review of events by government-appointed lawyer Len Doust concluded the guilty verdict may have been a miscarriage of justice. The court has not yet scheduled a date to hear the appeal.

The case was reopened after fresh evidence surfaced that may point to a suspect who lived in the area of the offences and resembled Mr. Henry. The suspect had been convicted of three sexual assaults in the same neighbourhood.

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Also, the prosecution failed to disclose to Mr. Henry oral and written statements to police from 27 alleged victims. In a notice of an appeal, the court was told that the prosecutor failed to tell Mr. Henry about forensic and police reports that indicated biological material from alleged victims could have been subject to testing that may have returned results that excluded him.

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