Last Thursday, disgraced radio host Jian Ghomeshi was found not guilty of sexually assaulting three women. The verdict came as a disappointment to many, but not as a huge surprise to anyone who had been following the story and the trial from the beginning. Justice Horkins’ 25-page ruling focussed squarely on the fact that a finding of “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” was put into question by the three complainants’ lack of reliability and credibility. The complainants’ behaviour after the alleged attacks was not in itself problematic, Justice Horkins ruled; it was the fact they omitted information, were inconsistent in their testimony and lied on the stand. Justice Horkins wrote, “In a case that is entirely dependent on the reliability of their evidence standing alone, these are factors that cause me considerable difficulty when asked to accept their evidence at full value.”
Despite some of the concerns that others have raised with the wording of the decision and the chilling effect this may have on victims of sexual assault (and that are beyond the scope of this blog post), Justice Horkins’ finding of reasonable doubt has a strong legal basis. His decision emphasized the difference between ‘innocent’ and ‘not guilty’: “My conclusion that the evidence in this case raises a reasonable doubt is not the same as deciding in any positive way that these events never happened. At the end of this trial, a reasonable doubt exists because it is impossible to determine, with any acceptable certainty or comfort, what is true and what is false.”
But Ghomeshi’s legal troubles are far from over. He faces another sexual assault trial in June. The complainant, whose identity is covered by a publication ban, came forward at the same time as the other complainants, but the circumstances of her case are different.
If you have questions about your right to silence and would like to speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.
To read the full decision, click here.