Rea­son­able doubt

Ghome­shi ver­dict any­thing but clear-cut

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

The Jian Ghome­shi trial was many things. But one thing is clear about the ver­dict: it is un­sat­is­fy­ing on many fronts. Not be­cause there is any­thing wrong with the judge’s de­ci­sion, but be­cause it leaves so much room for mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion and spin by those who feel pas­sion­ately about this is­sue. And there are many who do.

There are those who say all who claim they’ve been sex­u­ally as­saulted are to be be­lieved, re­gard­less of their story or cir­cum­stance. And there are those who be­lieve women must be liars, or they ob­vi­ously wanted it or had it com­ing to them ( just look at how they were dressed, they say, or how much they had to drink …).

De­spite how it feels, this trial was not about the broader is­sue of sex­ual as­sault - it was about one ac­cused and three al­leged vic­tims and was tried on the mer­its of these spe­cific com­plaints. And un­for­tu­nately, this case was any­thing but clearcut.

The judge did not say noth­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate hap­pened. He ruled that rea­son­able doubt ex­ists about the claims that events took place against the will of com­plainants. In part, he ruled that way be­cause all three vic­tims said and with­held things that se­ri­ously dam­aged their cred­i­bil­ity, and un­der­mined the Crown’s case. There was rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion with­held un­til the last minute. There was con­tra­dic­tory and out­right in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion of­fered as tes­ti­mony. And there was col­lu­sion be­tween at least two of the com­plainants in which they agreed to “sink” Ghome­shi.

There is no doubt the in­ten­tions of most peo­ple protest­ing the Ghome­shi out­come are hon­ourable. But we can’t make the mis­take of con­clud­ing this case is typ­i­cal. It is not. It is, how­ever, a valu­able op­por­tu­nity to ex­am­ine how we can make the sys­tem bet­ter for the vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault.

How? Some ad­vo­cate for sep­a­rate courts with ap­pro­pri­ate spe­cial­ized train­ing for per­son­nel in­volved. Oth­ers call for a sys­tem where those ac­cused of sex­ual as­sault are com­pelled to tes­tify and be cross-ex­am­ined. And still oth­ers ad­vo­cate for free le­gal ad­vice to vic­tims.

And what of Ghome­shi? He was found not guilty, which is not nec­es­sar­ily the same as be­ing in­no­cent. Those two things should not be con­fused. There is enough in­for­ma­tion about him that could in­di­cate the sort of per­son he may be. It’s not flat­ter­ing.

Sex­ual as­sault is a huge prob­lem in our so­ci­ety. Far too few vic­tims come for­ward, in large part be­cause they feel like the ac­cused rather than ac­cuser. Women must feel com­fort­able com­ing for­ward. They should not have to live in fear of their part­ners. And men who harm women should be pun­ished for it.

This trial and out­come have not helped us to­ward those ob­jec­tives - which re­main what we must strive for as a civil and eq­ui­table so­ci­ety.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.