Jian Ghomeshi has been acquitted on four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking by an Ontario Court judge who says the “deceptive and manipulative” evidence of the complainants raised a reasonable doubt in the guilt of the former CBC Radio host.
In a searing rebuke of the complainants, Judge William Horkins said the evidence from all three not only suffered from inconsistencies, but was “tainted by outright deception.”
“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,” Horkins said.
There were protests on the steps in front of the court following the verdict that seemed to question the Judge’s decision. There are more than 10,000 words in his judgement which leads to the suspicion that most of the demonstrators had not taken the time to read it.
Public sentiment in cases like these is usually sympathetic with victims; they must be telling the truth and so ought to be believed from the moment allegations are made and, since these victims reported to the press long before they reported to police, physical evidence was not available to the court for corroboration. Witness testimony comprised the entire trial and the outcome of the trial rested on the credibility of the words spoken in court.
The victims did not report to police immediately after the assaults. There was a lengthly delay followed by media reports that amounted to a public lynching before victims took their accusations to police.
Some people may take the position that the prosecutor, with the information in the brief presented to him by police, should have anticipated the evidence of witnesses, discovered the inconsistencies and stayed the prosecution to avoid a failed trial. One can imagine the public outcry in the context of the media blitz, that lasted weeks, had the Crown taken that course of action.
Some people will argue that the police investigation failed to unearth the behaviour of the witnesses in the weeks and months following the alleged assaults; the implication being that statements were accepted at face value rather than probed. The defence produced facts in the trial that seemed to surprise the Crown; an occurrence that often happens in a trial.
This verdict will resonate in media for several days. Columns will speculate about how the judicial system failed the victims’ cause but the truth is rather more subtle; a conviction based on questionable evidence would have hurt the cause of women everywhere.
Professional. Retired. Canadian.