Rosemary Westwood: The voice of Metro.
Jian Ghomeshi found not guilty, will that stir anger needed for change?
Journalists, lawyers and observers expect the same: Not guilty, on all counts.
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Update: Jian Ghomeshia has been found not guilty on all charges. More to come. Below is a column by Metro's Rosemary Westwood on what a not guilty verdict could mean.
Will Ghomeshi walk? The long stream of bombshells that was Jian Ghomeshi’s sexual-assault trial comes down to that question.
And when Justice William B. Horkins delivers his verdict, journalists, lawyers and observers expect the same: Not guilty, on all counts.
Ghomeshi’s lawyer, Marie Henein, left the proceedings swimming in reasonable doubt from pothole-ridden testimony. Consent was nowhere to be found, and it didn’t matter.
It would further galvanize the protests planned in Toronto, and perhaps spur others. It would infuriate onlookers dismayed at the adversarial, even cruel, dynamics of the courtroom.
It wouldn’t surprise sexual-violence advocates who have, for decades, watched an impotent justice system download the fallout of sexual assaults directly onto the victims, as it routinely fails to engender their trust.
But it will give those advocates an extra high-profile bit of ammunition. And they need all the help they can get.
It’s been 40 years since rape-shield laws were introduced, and yet, still, only about 10 per cent of sexual assaults are reported to police, never mind adjudicated in the courts.
In past years, and again since the start of this trial, various reforms have been batted around, including creating a courts for sexual assaults, inspired by those for mental health sufferers.
Also: restorative justice; trying sexual assaults as civil cases, in which the burden of proof is a “balance of probabilities,” instead of the “beyond a shadow of a doubt” standard of criminal court.
There could also be dedicated lawyers for complainants, to correct the imbalance that results when only the accused gets a lawyer in a he-said-she-said trial where physical evidence and third-party witnesses are in short supply.
Each idea has merit, and yet nothing has been done. This country needs anger.
An acquittal may well be the correct verdict, in legal terms. It could also be the correct sentence in a trial that has been set up, from the beginning, as our big chance to collectively witness systemic failings, and demand change.
Pamela Cross, a lawyer and long-time advocate for sexual assault victims, already believes the conditions are right, regardless of the verdict. “Canadians are talking about sexual assault in a way that really has never happened before,” she told me.
But if we need that extra push, not-guilty could do it.