Toronto’s Old City Hall was the scene of much media and public anticipation on the early morning of March 24, just prior to Justice William Horkins delivering judgment on the trial of Jian Ghomeshi, accused on four counts of sexual assault and one count of choking to overcome resistance. Ghomeshi, who had pleaded not guilty on all five counts, was acquitted of all charges.
Outside the court that morning, a group of demonstrators hoisting placards chanted, “We believe survivors, we believe survivors.”
Of course, the Ghomeshi trial was high profile and offered a good platform for those who like a good platform. In many instances, ordinary women go to court who have allegedly been raped or sexually assaulted by someone who is also an ordinary individual. In these instances, there are no militant demonstrators outside the courthouse to offer their vocal support.
However, these so-called ordinary cases are high profile to the victims involved but it seems that moral support and moral outrage are only valid if the media and cameras are present.
More importantly, chanting, “We believe survivors” outside a courthouse where a judge’s decision is to be delivered is an absurd stance if one has any faith or respect for the justice system.
Of course, the victims of sexual assault and rape need every reassurance that when they come forward they have their claims treated with sensitivity and discretion and that police and the entire process take their cases seriously and investigate them properly.
However, in a court of law it is imperative that the veracity of those claims stands up to scrutiny because those who are wrongly accused are also victims.
While expressing solidarity with the three complainants in the Ghomeshi trial may be commendable, to chant “We believe survivors,” is to assert that the legal process is unnecessary because the alleged victims are women and the outcome by default should favour them.
Along with a number of other female journalists, Christie Blatchford of the National Post sees Judge Horkins’ decision on the Ghomeshi trial as “a good day for justice and a good day for women who wish to be treated like any other complainant or witness who enters the criminal justice system.”
Men and women tell lies, blatant lies and lies of omission. Those accused of crimes and their alleged victims sometimes tell lies, which is the reason we have a justice system to examine publicly the veracity or lack thereof of people’s accounts.
Disliking Jian Ghomeshi or disapproving of his dark, sexual predilections is not enough to deem his acquittal a travesty of justice. I also believe, at least in this case, that the prowess of his lawyer Marie Henein is greatly overestimated.
As Judge Horkins said, “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.”
With collusion among two of the complainants, glaring inconsistencies and lying by omission by all three, any average lawyer could have established grounds for reasonable doubt.
Of course, no courtroom drama would be properly compelling without an ace lawyer in the picture so, naturally, the media created one.