The Complexities of Calgary Sexual Assault Charges and Charter Rights: Part 2

This is Part 2 of a three-part article series. For Part 1, please click here.

As we began to see in Part 1 of this article series, the crimes of common assault and sexual assault in Calgary arise in part from the same section of the criminal code, and there are certain similarities in how these crimes are defined, prosecuted, and defended. Any touching of a sexual nature that takes place without appropriate consent from the parties involved is potentially grounds for a sexual assault charge, and gestures or vocalizations implying or threatening sexual assault can also lead to criminal charges.

Sexual assaults are often viewed very differently by the Calgary public than common assaults. This can create an environment where Crown prosecutors, judges, and Calgary juries may be unknowingly biased in their treatment of those accused of sexual assault, and possibly even affecting the assumptions they make regarding an accused person's guilt or innocence. While it would take an egregious bias for an actual miscarriage of justice to take place, something that occurs very rarely and that your criminal defence lawyer is there to protect against, even subtle biases can make for a more emotionally difficult trial.

And in the court of public opinion, neither the facts nor your Charter-protected right to the presumption of innocence matter.

Sexual Assaults, Secrets, and Protecting Calgary Communities

Throughout the month of September, the Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Services took part in a public awareness campaign for sexual assault using the hashtag #IBelieveYou. The message of this campaign is to show support for anyone who claims to be a victim of sexual assault by believing their story without question.

The purpose of this campaign is laudable: to encourage more victims of sexual assault to speak out, report the alleged crimes, and seek any help they need. The advice to simply say, "I believe you" might also be good for family and friends of alleged victims, as coming forward with such an allegation is no doubt difficult.

Adopting this attitude as an officer of the court, however, whether or a member of the Calgary Police or other law enforcement agency, a Crown Prosecutor, a judge, or a member of any jury hearing a sexual assault case in the Calgary area is clearly problematic. All of these individuals are supposed to presume innocence unless and until guilt has been proven in a court of law. If the popular public opinion is that anyone alleging sexual assault should simply be believed, it follows that popular opinion says anyone accused of sexual assault should be assumed guilty, and that is contrary to the basic principles of our criminal justice system.

Defending Your Sexual Assault Charge in the Courts

As hard as it may be to face a community who assumes the worst, your real defence against sexual assault charges happens in the courts. Partner with a legal professional who can help you navigate those waters while helping you rebuild your life and put these painful charges behind you. Contact Calgary criminal defence lawyer Susan Karpa today.