DEFENDING THE FALSELY ACCUSED IN SEXUAL ASSAULT CASES

The current public climate punctuated by catch phrases such as “believe the victim” and the “me too” movement has led to the police laying far more charges of sexual assault. If you follow the victims’ right’s advocates, the police should readily believe the complainant and lay criminal charges. From a defence perspective, there is a real risk that these charges are false; being falsely accused of sexual assault can have horrendous consequences for the innocent. See a recent article in the National Post entitled “Handbook for Men Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault” (December 20, 2017, by Barbara Kay) which recounts the nightmare experience of a young man falsely accused of sexual assault. Judges have also recognized the danger posed by these populist slogans to the fairness of the criminal justice system. In R. v. Nyznik, 2017 ONSC 4392, Justice Malloy stated at paragraph 17:

Although the slogan “Believe the victim” has become popularized of late, it has no place in a criminal trial. To approach a trial with the assumption that the complainant is telling the truth is the equivalent of imposing a presumption of guilt on the person accused of sexual assault and then placing a burden on him to prove his innocence. That is antithetical to the fundamental principles of justice enshrined in our constitution and the values underlying our free and democratic society.

Our courts place a huge emphasis on the presumption of innocence in sexual assault cases because these are very serious offences with horrendous consequences should the accused be convicted. Among the consequences of being charged with sexual assault are publicity in the local media which can lead to the loss of employment, and social stigma in the community. As well, the accused can be subject to release conditions which severely restrict free movement and the ability to communicate via the internet or cellular telephone devices. A person accused of sexual assault will usually be facing a lengthy legal process before a trial which can sometimes be years away. All the while, the accused remains under restrictive conditions and has the possibility of a conviction at trial hanging over his/her head. This can be extremely costly and nerve-racking for anyone. Most people accused of sexual assault, have never been charged with a criminal offence and have no idea of what lays ahead. A conviction at trial can result in a sentence of years in prison and being registered as a sex offender.

Because the consequences are so severe for anyone accused of sexual assault, we follow a very pro-active strategy to ensure that every defence possible is employed on behalf of our clients.

A person facing a possible charge of sexual assault should consult with an experienced criminal defence lawyer before making any statement to the police. The consequences of a conviction for sexual assault are so serious that a person facing such an accusation should say absolutely nothing to the police. The police will always want to interview a sexual assault suspect because any admissions they can get will make it more likely that there will be a conviction at trial.

When the police invite a sexual assault suspect to come in for an interview, the purpose of the interview is to obtain incriminating admissions which will make the prosecutor’s job easier at a trial. In our experience an accused who provides a statement to the police is far more likely to be convicted than a person who exercises his right to silence. In advising clients who are about to be arrested by the police or have been invited to come in for an interview at the police station, we tell clients they should exercise the right to silence. We tell them to remind themselves of the importance of exercising their right to silence, that they should write two words on the palm of their hand in black ink, “SHUT UP”. The police investigators plan their interviews with suspects and employ every tactic possible to obtain incriminating admissions. The police objective is always to obtain evidence to support a conviction, not to let an accused talk his way out of a charge.

Our first step in representing an accused charged with sexual assault is to write the prosecutor seeking the entire contents of the police file in regard to the charge. These file materials will usually include audio/video recorded statements from the complainant and possibly other witnesses, as well as any statement which the accused gave the police. In our experience, the prosecutor’s office will attempt to conceal any information which will lead to the address and other contact information for the complainant and other prosecution witnesses. At Singleton & Associates, we will routinely fight efforts by the prosecutor to restrict access to this information which we consider to be crucial in properly defending our client. In fact, we went to court and challenged the prosecutor’s attempts to conceal such information. The decision of the Honourable Judge Michael Sherar in R. v. Nickerson, 2016 NSPC 72, is the leading decision in Nova Scotia and it states that the prosecutor to provide all relevant information to Defence Counsel.

Once we obtain full and complete disclosure from the prosecutor, we meet with our client to determine the best way to proceed in defending them against the sexual assault charge. In most cases where the prosecutor has proceeded by way of “indictment”, we advise having a preliminary inquiry in the Provincial Court before proceeding to a trial in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. The purpose of a preliminary inquiry is to give Defence Counsel an opportunity to examine the complainant in a sexual assault case before having to conduct a cross-examination at trial. At a preliminary inquiry, all evidence is being recorded and a transcript will be available at trial to compare the complainant’s testimony gave at the preliminary inquiry with their testimony at trial. Frequently there are serious contradictions in this evidence which can be used by an experienced criminal defence lawyer to suggest that the complainant’s evidence is not credible or reliable.

We note that some prosecutors will choose to proceed “summarily” with a sexual assault case in an effort to shield the complainant from being subject to an intensive cross-examination at a preliminary inquiry. When the prosecutor proceeds “summarily”, the accused only has a right to a trial in the Provincial Court and will not be able to have a preliminary inquiry. The effect of the prosecutor proceeding summarily deprives the accused of a right to have a preliminary inquiry which can be crucial to a successful defence of a sexual assault charge. If the prosecutor proceeds “summarily” with a sexual assault charge, the maximum sentence is eighteen months in a provincial jail and mandatory registration as a sex offender. Serving time in a provincial jail is often worse than serving a sentence in a federal prison given the maximum security detention and lack of parole.

In most sexual assault cases, the issue is whether or not the complainant consented to the sexual activity. Consent can be by words and/or actions. A person can consent to some sexual activity and not to other sexual activity. Consent may exist at the beginning of the sexual encounter and be withdrawn at some point afterwards. A person who is intoxicated can consent to sexual activity. A judge will determine, based on the facts of the case, whether the complainant was able to consent despite having consumed alcohol. In consent cases, evidence of earlier interactions between the complainant and the accused, for example at a party before the sexual activity, may be highly relevant in determining a complainant’s state of sobriety and her ability to consent to the sexual activity.

An accused facing a charge of sexual assault has an uphill battle in defending himself/herself given the enormous power and resources of the state in prosecuting such a case. The police and the prosecutor’s office have virtually unlimited resources at their disposal. In comparison, an accused has to pay for the services of a competent criminal defence lawyer and all other costs associated with his/her defence. While the prosecutor has all of the resources of the police available for further investigation, an accused often has to come up with additional funds so that his/her lawyer can hire an investigator to obtain background information on the complainant and other witnesses. Given the great imbalance in resources between the prosecutor and an accused, an experienced criminal defence lawyer must aggressively pursue all defences available to his/her client and must be extremely alert to attempts by the prosecutors to use evidence, such as statements, that may not be admissible at trial.

The punishment, if an accused is convicted of sexual assault, is very severe. If the prosecutor proceeded by way of “indictment”, an accused convicted of sexual assault is liable to imprisonment for a term of up to ten years. If the complainant was under sixteen years of age at the time the assault occurred, the maximum punishment could be up to fourteen years, with a minimum punishment of a term of one year in prison. If the prosecutor proceeded by way of “summary conviction”, the maximum punishment is eighteen months in a provincial jail. If the complainant was under the age of sixteen years, the maximum punishment is a term of two years, less a day, in a provincial jail with a minimum punishment of six months. In addition to a term of incarceration, an accused convicted of sexual assault is also subject to a mandatory sex offender registry order (SOIRA) and will also be ordered to provide a DNA sample and not be permitted to possess or use firearms. In some cases a person convicted of sexual assault can also be ordered not to be near schools, playgrounds or other places frequented by children and be subject to an order not to use any device capable of accessing the internet.

Other consequences of a conviction for sexual assault may well be worse then the sentence imposed by the Court. The notoriety which comes with a conviction may render the offender unemployable. The sex offender registry order (SOIRA) will make it next to impossible to escape the stigma of a sexual assault conviction even if the offender moves to a new town in a different province.

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ARRESTED - GETTING OUT OF JAIL

ARRESTED - GETTING OUT OF JAIL

The most terrifying experience for anyone is getting arrested by the police. At the time of your arrest you are detained and are no longer free to leave and go about your business. The police take possession of your personal belongings, handcuff you and place you in the back of the police car for transport to the police station. After being processed at the police station, some people get released upon signing a “Promise to Appear” in court and some don’t. This article outlines the various forms of release from custody, who gets released and under what circumstances.

Promise to Appear in Court
The simplest form of release from custody is a “Promise to Appear” in court. This is sometimes referred to as an “Appearance Notice”. This is a form which the police complete and the Accused person signs. Upon signing, the Accused is released from custody on his promise to appear in court on a later date and to attend at the police station for fingerprinting and to have his photograph taken pursuant to the Identification of Criminals Act. Accused persons who normally reside in the area of the province under the jurisdiction of the court who are charged with relatively minor criminal and drug offences are usually released on a Promise to Appear. (An accused person who is not arrested can be issued a “summons” to appear in court.)

Undertaking with Conditions
The police may also ask an Accused to enter into an “Undertaking with Conditions” to secure his release from custody. This form of release is frequently used in domestic violence and sexual assault cases where the Accused will be asked to undertake to have no contact with the complainant or alleged victim. There can be other conditions such as abstaining from alcohol or drugs or residing at a particular address. The police have the burden of justifying these conditions should the Accused request a variation before a judge of the Provincial Court.

Bail Hearing
If the police decide not to release an Accused on a Promise to Appear, Recognizance or Undertaking, they must take him to court for a bail review within twenty-four hours of his arrest. At a bail hearing a judge will decide if the Accused will be released and the conditions of release. If a judge determines that an Accused can be released it will be in the form of a Recognizance entered into before a judge or justice. The Recognizance may be with or without a surety. A “Surety” is an individual who accepts responsibility for the Accused and promises to pay an amount of money to the court should the Accused fail to attend at court or fail to abide by his release conditions. Not everyone can act as a surety; for example, the court would not accept as a surety an individual without a fixed address or an individual who has a criminal record.

Who May be Refused Bail
If an Accused has a history of failing to show up at court or has a history of committing the same offence, he may be denied bail. Similarly, if the Accused was already out on bail and breached his release conditions, he may be denied bail. In some cases if an Accused was already on release conditions for an indictable offence, he may have to show cause as to why he should be released. As a general rule, if an Accused has already been released on conditions and is arrested again, the release conditions will be more onerous and may include a curfew and house arrest. If an Accused habitually breaches his release conditions, the court may decline to release him under any conditions and he will have to remain in custody until his trial. In some cases, after an Accused has been arrested, the Crown Attorney may request that the Court not proceed with a bail hearing for three days to permit the police to investigate further.

An Accused who has been arrested and not been released by the police pursuant to a “Promise to Appear” should always contact a lawyer to determine how to obtain his release from custody. An experienced criminal defence lawyer can navigate the often complex rules which will determine if you are released from custody and under what conditions. A failure to get it right the first time may result in a costly appeal of the bail decision.

 

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IMPAIRMENT BY A DRUG - DRE CASES

Most Canadians are familiar with the police use of a roadside screening device to determine if alcohol is present in a driver stopped either at a police road checkpoint or on suspicion of impaired driving. The Criminal Code is quite clear that a fail on the roadside screening device provides the grounds for a police officer to make a demand that a driver provide a breath sample for the breathalyzer at the police station. A reading of over .08 on the breathalyzer at the police station will cause the police to lay the charge of failing the breathalyzer pursuant to section 253(1)(b) of the Criminal Code. The breathalyzer certificate, if found to be admissible by the court, will be proof of impairment for purposes of section 253(1)(b) of the Criminal Code.

When it comes to impairment by a drug, there is no device similar to a screening device or breathalyzer which the police can use to measure impairment by alcohol. When it comes to possible impairment by a drug, the Criminal Code provides a regime outlined at section 254 whereby a police officer who is designated a “drug evaluation expert” can give evidence of tests which the officer conducted to determine whether, in the officer’s opinion, an individual’s ability to drive is impaired by a drug. The regulations made pursuant to section 254(1) of the Criminal Code establish the qualifications of a drug evaluation officer and describes the tests that they perform in making a determination as to whether, in the officer’s opinion, a driver’s ability to drive is impaired by a drug. These tests, which are outlined in the regulations, include measurements of pulse and heart rates. There are also a series of eye examinations and physical divided attention tests. The drug evaluation officer will complete a “Drug Influence Evaluation” form and later prepare a written summary of the tests and their results. The drug evaluation officer will form an opinion as to whether or not the person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by a drug and that would serve as the basis for either a demand for a blood sample or a urine sample which would then be sent to a forensic laboratory for analysis.

Drug evaluation expert “DRE” cases tend to be complex because legal issues arise as to the qualification of the drug evaluation expert to give opinion evidence in court. It is usually necessary to have a forensic toxicologist testify to give evidence if drugs were found in the urine or blood sample and their likely effect on a person’s ability to drive.

In Nova Scotia, most courts have found that a police officer who is qualified as a drug evaluation expert according to the regulations made pursuant to section 254(1) of the Criminal Code must be qualified to give expert evidence in court. Even if an officer is qualified to give expert evidence, there are always arguments which experienced defence counsel can make about the weight a trial judge should give to such evidence. Most reported drug evaluation cases in Nova Scotia have typically taken up to two days of court time and frequently involve applications based on the Charter rights of the accused given that part of the drug evaluation expert’s examination involves asking the accused to provide answers to various questions which can amount to self-incrimination.

Any driver charged with impairment which involved an examination by a drug evaluation expert should consult with an experienced criminal defence lawyer before agreeing to answer any questions for the police officer or participating in the test procedure. It is a criminal offence to refuse to participate in the series of tests mandated by the regulations pursuant to section 254(1) of the Criminal Code. However, an accused driver may not have to answer any of the questions posed by the police officer because those questions would tend to violate an accused’s Charter protected right against self-incrimination.

If you are charged with an offence of being impaired by a drug which involves a drug evaluation expert, you should consult with a lawyer who has experience in these complicated legal cases. If you require legal advice in this area please do not hesitate to call Tom Singleton at (902) 492-7000.
 

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Curative Discharges in Impaired Driving Cases

The Criminal Code at section 255(5) permits a court to grant a “curative discharge” instead of registering a conviction for an offence under section 253 of the Criminal Code. The offences under section 253 of the Criminal Code are impaired driving or failing the breathalyzer. The effect of a “curative discharge” is that the court will not impose the minimum sentence prescribed by the Criminal Code and will usually place the offender on probation subject to conditions that he participate in an alcohol or drug treatment program.

Given that there are minimum penalties for a conviction under section 253 of the Criminal Code, an offender has to meet certain criteria to be eligible for a “curative discharge”. A minimum sentence for a conviction under section 253 of the Criminal Code is a fine of $1,000.00 for a first offence; that increases to a minimum of thirty days imprisonment for a second conviction and to a minimum of one hundred and twenty days imprisonment for a third conviction. The other consequence of a conviction under section 253 of the Criminal Code is that the offender will have a criminal record which may affect travel and employment opportunities. The only way to avoid minimum penalties prescribed in the Criminal Code for convictions of impaired driving or failing the breathalyzer is to convince a court that the offender should be granted a “curative discharge”.

In order for a court to grant a “curative discharge” it must be convinced that the offender is a person in need of curative treatment in relation to his consumption of alcohol or drugs. Most people who are charged with impaired driving or failing the breathalyzer offences will not meet this criteria because they do not have a history of an alcohol or drug problem. Most persons charged with impaired driving or failing the breathalyzer are people who made a mistake and drove after having consumed alcohol. The mere fact of being charged with impaired driving or failing the breathalyzer does not mean a person has an alcohol or drug dependancy to a point where they would be considered a person in need of curative treatment. An offender would have to convince a court that he is a person in need of curative treatment by advancing evidence of a history of alcohol or drug dependancy; such evidence can be given by testimony from a doctor or other medical professional. The fact that someone has previously been treated for an alcohol or drug issue may be evidence that the person is someone in need of curative treatment.

As a practical matter, when an offender is making an application for a “curative discharge”, the court will normally require evidence that he has taken steps to deal with an alcohol or drug consumption problem such as having participated in a detox treatment program or having followed counselling in regard to such a dependancy. The court will usually want to hear testimony from the professionals who supervised the alcohol or drug treatment program and from the counsellor who provided follow-up counselling. At a “curative discharge” application, the court will also want to hear the offender testify about what he has done to try to deal with an alcohol or drug abuse problem. Other witnesses at a “curative discharge” hearing may include family members and friends of the offender as well as someone from a group such as Alcoholics Anonymous. At the end of the day, the court has to be convinced that the offender is someone in need of curative treatment, and, as a practical matter, has taken steps to obtain such treatment.

The next hurdle which an offender must pass to obtain a “curative discharge” is to convince the court that granting the discharge is not contrary to the public interest. The Crown Attorney will usually argue that granting a “curative discharge” will not meet the public interest test because of the carnage caused by impaired drivers on our roads and the need for deterrence when it comes to impaired driving offences. A skilled defence lawyer will argue that the public interest is served by a person with an alcohol or drug addiction problem following treatment and becoming a productive member of society who is unlikely to ever again place the public at risk by getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle after he has been drinking.

If the court decides to grant a “curative discharge” the offender will be placed on a period of probation subject to conditions that he follow counselling and treatment as directed by his probation officer to deal with an alcohol or drug problem. There will also be a condition that the offender not possess or consume alcohol or illegal drugs. If the offender completes the period of probation successfully, he will be deemed never to have been convicted of the criminal offence of impaired driving or failing the breathalyzer and not have a criminal record in regard to that offence.

It should be noted that a “curative discharge” is not a possible sentence option if an offender has been convicted of the charge of refusing to provide a breath sample for a screening device or for the breathalyzer despite the fact that the same minimum sentences apply for that conviction and in all other respects it is treated the same as a conviction for impaired driving or failing the breathalyzer. Section 255(5) of the Criminal Code limits the option of a “curative discharge” to offences under section 253 of the Criminal Code. A skilled defence lawyer will usually ensure that a client who is charged with refusal and also charged with impaired driving will plead “guilty” to the impaired driving offence to ensure that he is eligible to apply for a “curative discharge”.

Another point to keep in mind in regard to “curative discharges” is that a person charged for the first time with an impaired driving offence may apply for a “curative discharge” if they meet the criteria. The same applies to a person who has multiple prior convictions for impaired driving related offences. In fact, it is easier for a person with multiple impaired driving related convictions to convince a court that he is a person in need of curative treatment than it is for most first time impaired driving offenders.

An application for a “curative discharge” is a complicated matter given the two-pronged test which must be met before the court will grant such a remedy. Given the kind and nature of evidence which must be advanced in court to secure a “curative discharge” the services of an experienced lawyer who specializes in impaired driving cases will usually be required.

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WHEN CRIMINAL CHARGES GET LAID AND WHEN THEY DON’T

The tragic Rehtaeh Parsons case, which has been front-page news in Nova Scotia and throughout Canada, raises some of the most troubling questions in Canadian criminal law. In the Rehtaeh Parsons case there was an allegation that she was sexually assaulted by four young men and that a photograph of the incident was circulated over the internet. In her case, the police investigated the complaint of sexual assault and, after consultation with the Public Prosecution Service, decided not to lay any criminal charges. Subsequent to the sexual assault incident and the online circulation of the photograph allegedly taken during the incident, Ms. Parsons was bullied to the point where she took her own life. These are very tragic circumstances for her family, friends, and the community at large.

It is in this context that questions have been raised as to why the police did not lay charges against any of the four young men both in regard to the complaint of sexual assault and the circulation of a photograph on the internet which could be considered child pornography. The Rehtaeh Parsons media reports referred to the police investigation and a review of the investigation results by one or more Crown Attorneys before a decision was made not to proceed with criminal charges against any of the four young men involved.

In attempting to understand the Rehtaeh Parsons case it is important to be aware of the different roles the police and the Crown play in our justice system. It is the role of the police to investigate allegations of criminal offences and determine whether or not charges will be laid. The Crown in Nova Scotia does not decide whether criminal charges will be laid in any particular case. On some occasions the police will consult with a Crown Attorney to determine whether the evidence they have gathered in a particular case would justify proceeding with certain charges under the Criminal Code. What a Crown Attorney is usually determining is whether, based on the evidence presented by the police, the elements of a criminal offence are made out and whether there is a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction in a criminal court where the evidentiary burden is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A Crown Attorney will likely have this discussion with the police investigator but, at the end of the day, the decision as to whether or not to lay a criminal charge remains with the police.

If the police do lay criminal charges, the Crown Attorney can later decide whether or not the evidence supports a reasonable prospect of conviction at a trial. If the evidence available to the Crown does not offer a reasonable prospect of conviction then the Crown Attorney has an obligation not to proceed with the prosecution. There are some situations where, even if there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction, the Crown will, nevertheless, decide not to prosecute because the prosecution may not be in the public interest. An example may be the case of an elderly accused who has no prior record who is charged with a very minor offence.

In sexual assault cases where the issue may be whether the complainant consented to the sexual activity, the police will collect evidence which may include statements from the complainant, other witnesses and, sometimes, statements from the alleged perpetrators which may collectively present a less than clear picture on the issue. If the evidence collected by the police is ambiguous on the issue of consent, the police may very well want to consult with a Crown Attorney to determine whether there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction should they lay a charge. It is important to note that consent to sexual activity is not simply a complainant stating “I did not consent” but can also be implied from the complainant’s actions and surrounding circumstances. Experienced criminal defence lawyers and Crown Attorneys who prosecute sexual assault cases run into this situation in some cases which can result in lengthy trials dealing almost entirely with the consent issue.

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IMPAIRED DRIVING - LICENSE SUSPENSIONS - GETTING YOUR LICENSE BACK

One of the most immediate consequences of being charged with an impaired driving related offence (drunk driving, DUI or refusal charges) is that your license will be suspended in Nova Scotia for period of ninety days under the Motor Vehicle Act. This suspension occurs because of the mere fact of being charged with an impaired driving related offence. While this kind of a driving license suspension, without the benefit of a trial or hearing is draconian, the situation gets worse when you attempt to get your license back after the ninety day suspension is over.

Numerous persons who have had their license suspended because of an impaired driving or related criminal charge have gone to Service Nova Scotia after their ninety day suspension is up thinking they would get their license back, only to learn that they cannot get their license back unless they have participated in a designated Alcohol Rehabilitation Program which must be completed through Addiction Services at Capital Health in Halifax. When you call the number for the “Driving While Impaired or Interlock Program” at Capital Health in Halifax (902-424-8866, option # 3) you will get an answering machine prompting you to leave your name and telephone number. Recently people who have been applying to participate in the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program have been told that they could only get into the program three or four months down the road. The net effect is that the ninety day license suspension becomes a suspension of six months or longer because of the waiting list for the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program. This is a very severe additional punishment for someone who has not yet been convicted of any offence and is clearly not the intention of section 279A of the Motor Vehicle Act.

At Singleton & Associates when a client is facing an impaired driving related criminal offence, we advise that they should immediately apply to participate in the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program given the wait list at Addiction Services. In other words, you make the application at the beginning of the ninety day license suspension.


The same problem awaits anyone who has been convicted of impaired driving or a related criminal offence and receives a one year driving suspension under the Criminal Code when they go to Service Nova Scotia to attempt to get their license back. If they have not already completed the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program through Addiction Services at Capital Health they will be told that they have to apply to the program and complete it before they can get their license back. They have to participate in the same program and the wait list is three months or longer, which results in the driving suspension of one year imposed by the Court becoming a driving suspension of fifteen months or longer. Again, our advice is to make your application to participate in the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program at the beginning of your suspension.

One would think, in the interest of fairness, that the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program required by the Registry of Motor Vehicles would be readily available especially when every applicant who does the course is paying a fee of hundred of dollars to fund the program. Setting up such a rehabilitation program in a manner which has the effect of extending the license suspension is unjust and should not be tolerated in a democracy which cherishes the rule of law. Yet it is unlikely that anything will be done to correct this injustice, given the existence of well financed lobby groups such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).

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SEXUAL OFFENCES - THE MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO KNOW - WHY SOME CASES GET REPORTED AND SOME DON’T

Sexual offences are among the most serious charges under the Criminal Code and include everything from aggravated sexual assault to pornography charges and child pornography charges. On any given day in courts throughout Nova Scotia persons accused of sexual offences appear to elect their mode of trial or to enter a plea and obtain a trial date or sometimes for a trial itself. While it is bad enough that an accused person will find themselves before a court facing such serious criminal charges, what is worse is the fear that their names will be published in a newspaper, mentioned on radio or television or in some online media. The publication of the name of an accused who is charged but not convicted (i.e. presumed to be innocent) of a sexual offence will frequently have very serious consequences including social stigma and the possible loss of employment.

What determines whether a case gets reported by the media or not? If the accused has the same family name as the victim and publication of the name of the accused would identify the victim, there will almost certainly be a court ordered publication ban on reporting the name of the accused or any other information which might identify the alleged victim of the sexual offence.

If a person accused of a sexual offence is socially prominent, for example a politician, a lawyer, a doctor or some other professional, the odds of the name of the accused being reported are greater. Even if reporters are not present in court, human nature being what it is, the information that such a person has been charged with a sexual offence will often find its way to the media.

In cases which do not involve socially prominent people, whether a criminal accusation gets reported or not will depend on the seriousness of the offence was or the notoriety of the incident which led to the sexual charge being laid.


Most people accused of sexual offences, who are not socially prominent and where the events themselves were not particularly notorious, will often avoid seeing their names published in the newspaper, mentioned on radio or television or in some other media. A skilled criminal defence lawyer will ensure that his client does not appear in court for routine court appearances by having filed a Designation of Counsel with the court which enables the lawyer to appear on behalf of the accused person. A criminal defence lawyer will usually ensure that the criminal charges are not read out in court and that the only times the accused is attending at court is for a preliminary inquiry, a trial or a sentence hearing.

While it may appear unfair, a person accused of a sexual offence in a large centre, such as Halifax, will often remain anonymous while a person accused of such an offence in a smaller centre will usually find their case mentioned in the local newspaper. While our criminal court system is based on the principle of the public having a right to know, whether the name of an accused is actually reported in the media is far from certain and in some cases can be avoided by a skilled criminal defence lawyer.

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