Rape shield law un­fairly ap­plied

The Western Star - - OBITUARIES / CANADA -

TORONTO — Canada’s so-called rape-shield law, which aims to pro­tect sex­ual-as­sault com­plainants from un­fair and ir­rel­e­vant scru­tiny of their sex lives, can­not be used to pre­vent an ac­cused from mount­ing a rea­son­able de­fence, On­tario’s top court ruled on Wed­nes­day.

As a re­sult, the court quashed the sex­ual-as­sault con­vic­tion of a man whose lawyer was barred from cross-examining a woman on her preg­nancy and or­dered a new trial.

In its rul­ing, the court ac­knowl­edged the crit­i­cal im­por­tance of protecting com­plainants from ques­tion­ing about their sex­ual ac­tiv­ity when that ac­tiv­ity does not form the subject mat­ter of the charge. Among other things, the court said, the rule takes into ac­count the pri­vacy in­ter­ests of a com­plainant and was prompted by con­cerns about de­ter­ring vic­tims from go­ing to po­lice and about feed­ing rape myths. “Not­with­stand­ing these pow­er­ful con­sid­er­a­tions, there are times when such ques­tion­ing must be per­mit­ted,’’ the Ap­peal Court said.

“This is one of those cases where a proper bal­anc­ing ... re­quires that such ques­tion­ing be per­mit­ted.’’

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