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#ghomeshi verdict in: Acquittal on all sexual assault charges

jianghomeshitrial16First Reference Talks previously posted a blog post on the Jian Ghomeshi criminal case and we were waiting on the verdict to be handed down.

On March 24, 2016, Ontario Court Justice William Horkins delivered his ruling: Ghomeshi has been acquitted of all sexual assault charges. The full-text of the decision is posted here (In PDF).

As you may recall, Ghomeshi pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one count of “choking to overcome resistance“. Today, his Honour stated (as related by the media in attendance):

The quality of the evidence failed to prove the case… the testimony brings reasonable doubt.”

Further to this statement, his Honour said that the evidence from all three complainants not only suffered from inconsistencies, but was “tainted by outright deception”, and “The harsh reality is that once a witness has been shown to be deceptive and manipulative in giving their evidence, that witness can no longer expect the court to consider them to be a trusted source of the truth… I am forced to conclude that it is impossible for the court to have sufficient faith in the reliability or sincerity of these complainants. Put simply, the volume of serious deficiencies in the evidence leaves the court with a reasonable doubt.”

Many journalists and lawyers in attendance at the verdict hearing offered their opinions including, the judge is being very clear here that the verdict does not mean that these events did not happen. Simply put, after hearing the evidence and testimonies, reasonable doubt exists at the end of the trial because it is impossible to determine “what is true and what is false.”

The bedrock foundation of the Crown’s case is tainted.” (Ontario Court Justice William Horkins)

As Omar Ha-Redeye, Ontario lawyer stated on Twitter, “the one redeeming quality of #ghomeshi trial is greater public awareness of our legal system. How it works. How it can also protect you.”

This will bring about much needed discussions on the legal system and the topic of sexual harassment and violence and measures to take to prevent it from happening. Already, with the enactment of Bill 132, Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act (Supporting Survivors and Challenging Sexual Violence and Harassment), 2016, the Ontario government is taking a major step to impose certain duties on employers to protect workers from workplace sexual harassment and violence. You can read more about Bill 132 here.

Last words

The three alleged victims, Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere and two other women who chose to keep their identities protected, will have to wait and see if Ghomeshi brings an action for defamation or malicious prosecution against them due to the acquittal. However, there is still one criminal charge pending against Ghomeshi that is schedule to be heard in June involving a different victim.

The prosecution has stated to the media that they still need to review today’s judgment.

We will keep you posted on any further developments…

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Christina Catenacci

Christina Catenacci, BA, LLB, LLM, was called to the Ontario Bar in 2002 and has since been a member of the Ontario Bar Association. Christina worked as an editor with First Reference between February 2005 and August 2015, working on publications including The Human Resources Advisor (Ontario, Western and Atlantic editions), HRinfodesk discussing topics in Labour and Employment Law. Christina has decided to pursue a PhD at the University of Western Ontario beginning in the fall of 2015. Read more
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