Par­ties trade ac­cu­sa­tions about ‘play­ing pol­i­tics’ with sex­ual as­sault

Cape Breton Post - - Province -

Nova Sco­tia’s Lib­eral and Tory par­ties are point­ing fin­gers at one an­other for “play­ing pol­i­tics’’ with sex­ual as­sault.

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive leader Jamie Bail­lie said Sun­day that the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment mis­led the public when it com­mit­ted to hir­ing two spe­cial pros­e­cu­tors to han­dle sex­ual as­sault cases.

The hires were an­nounced in March in the wake of wide­spread public outcry over the ac­quit­tal of a cab­bie ac­cused of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing a pas­sen­ger in his car.

Bail­lie said the move proved to be a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated bait-and-switch when it was re­vealed that the new Crown lawyers would of­fer train­ing about sex­ual as­sault cases rather than fight­ing them in court.

“It’s just wrong to prom­ise sur­vivors full-time pros­e­cu­tors and then to pro­vide some­thing less,’’ Bail­lie said in an in­ter­view Sun­day. “At this time, when sur­vivors of sex­ual as­sault are look­ing for some­one to re­store their faith in our jus­tice sys­tem, it is inex­cus­able for the (Stephen) McNeil gov­ern­ment to flip-flop on this im­por­tant of is­sues.’’

In a state­ment, the Tories cited an April let­ter from the di­rec­tor of Nova Sco­tia’s public prose­cu­tion ser­vice in­form­ing jus­tice depart­ment staff that the Crown spe­cial­ists “will pro­vide sup­port, train­ing, men­tor­ing and spe­cial­ized guid­ance to all crown at­tor­neys pros­e­cut­ing these chal­leng­ing cases.’’

Nova Sco­tia’s Crown At­tor­neys’ As­so­ci­a­tion is over­bur­dened with sex­ual as­sault cases, ac­cord­ing to Bail­lie, and they need more front-line pros­e­cu­tors rather than “train­ers.’’

The Lib­er­als fired back with a state­ment Sun­day con­demn­ing Bail­lie’s claims as “in­cor­rect and mis­lead­ing.’’

“The only per­son play­ing pol­i­tics with sex­ual as­sault is Jamie Bail­lie,’’ the party said. “It’s fur­ther proof that Jamie Bail­lie is will­ing to say any­thing to get a vote.’’

The gov­ern­ment has made it clear that the spe­cial pros­e­cu­tors will carry caseloads, Lib­er­als said, in ad­di­tion to as­sist­ing cases and pro­vid­ing ex­per­tise through­out the courts. They said the roles are de­signed to pro­vide sup­port for as many vic­tims as pos­si­ble.

“The is­sue of sex­ual as­sault should be a con­cern to Nova Sco­tians ev­ery day,’’ Lib­eral leader Stephen McNeil said in a state­ment. “It is of­fen­sive that Mr. Bail­lie is try­ing to politi­cize this is­sue.’’

Sex­ual as­sault pol­icy has emerged as a prom­i­nent cam­paign is­sue in a prov­ince that has been roiled in re­cent years by sev­eral high-pro­file cases in­volv­ing sex­ual vi­o­lence.

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