Judge William Horkins found ex-CBC host Jian Ghomeshi not guilty of five charges on Thursday — and the language he used in his decision raised plenty of eyebrows.
In acquitting Ghomeshi, Horkins determined the trial witnesses were not "sincere, honest and accurate" in their testimony.
But two points in particular stood out.
From paragraph 135:
"As I have stated more than once, the courts must be very cautious in assessing the evidence of complainants in sexual assault and abuse cases. Courts must guard against applying false stereotypes concerning the expected conduct of complainants. I have a firm understanding that the reasonableness of reactive human behaviour in the dynamics of a relationship can be variable and unpredictable. However, the twists and turns of the complainants’ evidence in this trial, illustrate the need to be vigilant in avoiding the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful. Each individual and each unique factual scenario must be assessed according to their own particular circumstances."
This paragraph generated plenty of anger on social media when it was misquoted as, "We must fight against the stereotype that all sexual assault complaints are truthful."
But Horkins' own language was also criticized by Emmett Macfarlane, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo.
At para. 135 judge suggests "assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful" is "equally dangerous" to rape myths. Idiotic.— Emmett Macfarlane (@EmmMacfarlane) March 24, 2016
Plenty of others criticized the wording in the decision too:
I was expecting this verdict before the trial even started, tbh, but man...— Sheena Goodyear (@SheenaGoodyear) March 24, 2016
Like, "The Crown was unable to prove the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt" would have done just fine, guy.— Sheena Goodyear (@SheenaGoodyear) March 24, 2016
Actual text from Horkins' decision:need to avoid the equally dangerous false assumption that sexual assault complainants are always truthful— Christina Turner (@christinalbt) March 24, 2016
But that wasn't the only paragraph that grabbed people's attention.
From paragraph 79:
"Ms. DeCoutere said her plan was to disclose all of these things once the trial began. She said that she had always intended to reveal this information but thought that the trial would be her first chance to do so. With respect, that explanation seems unreasonable to me. Ms. DeCoutere had literally dozens of pre-trial opportunities to provide the full picture to the authorities. I suspect the truth is she simply thought that she might get away with not mentioning it."
After reviewing DeCoutere's testimony, Horkins concluded that she "attempted to mislead the Court about her continued relationship with Mr. Ghomeshi."
His contention that he "suspect[s] the truth is she simply thought she might get away with not mentioning it" drew particular attention.
"I suspect the truth is she simply thought she might get away with not mentioning it." Ouch. #Ghomeshi at para. 79— Joanna Baron (@jobearon) March 24, 2016
Social media users nevertheless extolled support for DeCoutere on Twitter.
The main thesis to this judge's verdict: DeCoutere can't be believed or trusted.— Julia Alexander (@loudmouthjulia) March 24, 2016
We hear you. We believe you. We stand with you
I believe LR. I believe Lucy DeCoutere. I believe SD. #IBelieveSurvivors— mary did it (@maryinjune) March 24, 2016
I declare this Lucy DeCoutere day. Everyone go watch Trailer Park Boys and laugh till you're strong again. #IBelieveSurvivors— murtonstoehr (@murtonstoehr) March 24, 2016
And Macfarlane criticized Horkins' inspection of witness' post-assault behaviour as undermining of their credibility.
This isn't a failure of the law or the legal standards for guilt. But that doesn't mean it's not a failure of the justice system. #Ghomeshi— Emmett Macfarlane (@EmmMacfarlane) March 24, 2016
Even as the judge reached the appropriate legal verdict, the written reasons still have some big problems: https://t.co/weTGDge4ER 2/n— Emmett Macfarlane (@EmmMacfarlane) March 24, 2016
For example, the judge (unnecessarily, IMO) refers to post-assault behaviour of the witnesses. 3/n— Emmett Macfarlane (@EmmMacfarlane) March 24, 2016
Ghomeshi will face a second trial in June for a sexual assault that allegedly happened in the workplace.
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