Sexual Assault Case Update: Defense Lawyers Reviewing Evidence and Question Police Handling

London, Ontario – Lawyers representing five members of Canada’s 2018 world juniors team appeared in court for the first time last Monday to face sexual assault charges related to an incident that occurred in June 2018. The next court hearing is scheduled for April 30, leaving a 12-week gap between appearances. Legal experts and defense attorneys have provided their insights on what to expect in the proceedings and have also commented on the recent public statement made by the London Police Service.

Sam Goldstein, a criminal defense attorney based in Toronto with experience in sexual assault cases, emphasized the importance of the disclosure phase. During this phase, the Crown and the police are required to provide all evidence to the defense lawyers. Goldstein explained that the defense lawyers would then review the evidence with their clients to determine the available defenses.

Lakin Afolabi and Isaac Heo, criminal defense lawyers specializing in sexual assault and domestic assault cases in London, Ontario, pointed out that defense lawyers meticulously examine the evidence for any inconsistencies or mistakes that could benefit their clients. Afolabi stressed that some lawyers work independently, solely focusing on their client’s best interests, while others opt for a collaborative approach, sharing information and strategies among lawyers to benefit multiple parties involved.

The recent apology issued by London Police Service Chief Thai Truong to the alleged victim could impact the case. Goldstein believes that the public apology undermines the credibility of the police investigation and potentially lays the foundation for a defense argument. Nikolas Lust, an Ottawa-based criminal defense attorney, added that the delayed approach of the police in this case could lead to the defense lawyers filing a motion for abuse of process. If successful, this could result in the case being dropped and significant consequences for the police.

The case also raises questions about the impact of the high-profile trial of Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi. After Ghomeshi was acquitted of sexual assault charges in 2016, the Canadian Criminal Code was amended to prevent defense lawyers from introducing surprise evidence. The defense is now required to inform the Crown and any prosecution witnesses about the evidence they intend to present in court. In this case, three Crown attorneys, including Meaghan Cunningham, who specializes in sexual violence cases, are seeking to convict the five hockey players. Cunningham’s presence highlights the significance of the case and the Crown’s determination to avoid a repeat of the Ghomeshi trial outcome.

The proceedings may also be impacted by the fact that there are five defendants in this case, which is considered atypical. The coordination of schedules among the defense lawyers is crucial to ensure all parties can attend court appearances. While some lawyers may focus solely on their individual clients, others may collaborate for the benefit of multiple defendants.

Overall, the lawyers and legal experts interviewed agree that the complexity of the case, the evidence involved, and the actions of the police and Crown attorneys will heavily influence the outcome of the trial. The extended gap between court hearings provides an opportunity for the defense lawyers to thoroughly review the evidence and build their cases. The London Police Service’s apology and the potential impact of the Ghomeshi trial are additional factors that could significantly shape the proceedings.