Jian Ghomeshi: Justice, the courts and the court of public opinion


Jian Ghomeshi in happier days.

Did he do it? Of course.

Did the crown prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, Jian Ghomeshi sexually assaulted three women?

That’s more complicated.

Let’s start with what we know. Three women went to police alleging Ghomeshi sexually assaulted them, each story strikingly similar: Ghomeshi punched and choked them without consent, without warning, and with no logical or romantic connection to what happened before or after. We know other women also came forward, though not to police, with eerily comparable tales.

Cobble those together, and we know what we believe. And we’re right.

But in a criminal case, the crown must — rightly  — still prove the truth of each allegation beyond a reasonable doubt.

That’s never easy, but he-said-she-said sexual assault allegations — with no witnesses, no physical evidence, where time has passed and peripheral memories faded — create a proof-mountain to daunt even the most resourceful prosecutor.

The crown must hope the complainants are credible, and there are enough of them — providing independent allegations of similar acts — to convince the judge they must therefore be telling the truth.

The defence faces a similar hurdle, but in reverse: no witnesses, no physical evidence to prove the assault didn’t happen. Its only recourse is to undermine the accusers’ credibility.

Questioning what happened between each woman and Ghomeshi in the hours, days, months after the assault seems to me fair. The crown and the complainants must show — as they did — their behaviour was reasonable in context. (Many of us, regardless of gender, will understand the desire not to confront, to move on.)

It’s up to the judge to balance the doubts raised with their responses.

More problematic in this case is the fact — again understandable, given the public ways in which  the case played out — two of the complainants shared their stories with each other in 5,000 emails, texts, social media before the court case. That is clearly problematic, and the judge must now decide whether their allegations are really independent.

It’s as easy to believe Ghomeshi will be acquitted as found guilty.

But what happens in court almost doesn’t matter. The complainants have rightly become social media heroes for having stood up, and for starting an important discussion. Ghomeshi has long since lost what matters most deeply to him. His reputation is shot, his career in tatters.

Justice has been served.


  1. Stephen, there has been so much hysteria around this – it is a pleasure to read something so balanced, calm and wise. Many thanks.


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