Ontario is looking to a launch a pilot program that allows victims of sexual abuse to obtain free legal advice. Survivors of sexual assault will have access to four hours of free legal advice in aims to help them navigate the legal system.
Legal proceedings are complicated and can be overwhelming for victims who are unfamiliar with the justice system. As explained in my last piece the victims in the Jian Ghomeshi case explained that they mistakenly believed the Prosecution was their legal counsel. The victims felt embarrassed and attacked on the stand as they were not prepared for the line of questioning used in the trial. The victims in the Jian Ghomeshi case explained that they expected to be cross-examined by police officers before the trial to help prepare them to be cross-examined in court; however, this is not how the legal system works.
Direct examination or examination in chief consists of a witness is being asked questions by the party that asked the witness to appear in court. For example, if I asked you to appear in court to support my case, you’d be my witness and I would use your testimony to support my arguments. The type of questions asked are generally less invasive and the approach is less aggressive than cross-examination.
Conversely, when a witness is cross -examined (which follows the direct examination), it is led by the oppositions legal agent who is attempting to discredit the testimony of the other party by asking more detailed questions to establish any inconsistencies. This type of questioning is generally portrayed more aggressively in television shows.
Following this, there is a chance for the legal agent who questioned you in direct examination to ask any final questions to help clarify answers that may have been misconstrued in cross-examination. In this line of questioning, the legal agent can only ask questions and address points brought to light in the cross-examination; thus, no new arguments can be made.
The new pilot program wants to address the above – noted concerns and misconceptions to allow victims to make informed decisions regarding their cases. This program also aims to help victims navigate the system more efficiently by equipping with the knowledge as to what a sexual assault trial entails.
The new Ontario pilot program would be implemented in Toronto, Thunder Bay and Ottawa. If the program is successful it is proposed to be practiced throughout Canada. This program aligns with Kathleen Wynne’s “It’s Never Okay” policy that argued sexual assault is never okay. The program will be used to gather data and evidence that will help shape future policies.
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Points of Discussion:
1. How do you feel about this new policy? Do you think it will be effective? Should we implement this policy?
- Is there a similar policy in your country? Would you want this type of policy implemented?