Last Monday, the highly-publicized and anticipated sexual assault trial of Jian Ghomeshi, began in Toronto. Mr. Ghomeshi was a former member of the band Moxy Fruvous and the host of the CBC Radio arts and culture show, Q. He was fired from the CBC in 2014 after graphic evidence came to light that he had physically injured a woman. In a Facebook post, Mr. Ghomeshi admitted that he had engaged in “rough” but consensual sex with women. Soon after, multiple women came forward with allegations of abuse, and the Toronto police began an investigation. Mr. Ghomeshi turned himself in to police in November, 2014.
Mr. Ghomeshi has been charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcome resistance by choking. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. There are three complainants in this case: actress Lucy-Anne DeCoutere of Trailer Park Boys fame and two others whose identities are protected by a publication ban. A second trial, on one count of sexual assault, is scheduled for June.
Earlier his week, Ms. DeCoutere and one of the unnamed complainants testified before Justice William B. Horkins at the Old City Hall courthouse in Toronto. The trial was adjourned Friday afternoon, and will resume Monday morning, February 8. During the first week of his trial, Mr. Ghomeshi did not speak. It is still uncertain whether he will take the stand in his own defence.
Legally speaking, the verdict in this trial has yet to be determined, and can only be decided by one person, Justice Horkins. However, in the court of public opinion, many columnists, reporters and legal pundits have already determined Mr. Ghomeshi’s guilt. Some have even suggested lowering the standard of proof that should apply, or for creating a presumption that complainants are telling the truth in these types of cases. This is cause for concern. There is no denying that a criminal trial can be immensely stressful for complainants and witnesses. While it is important to acknowledge the difficulties faced by victims of sexual assault who speak out against their attackers, it must be emphasized that a justice system in which it is easier to secure convictions in cases of sexual assault can only lead to an erosion of the rights and freedoms that we value as Canadian and that define the justice system in Canada.
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