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Ontario sexual assault cases to get outside review

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Certain criminal cases will soon be reviewed by an independent body. Sexual assault cases in various areas of Ontario and in Calgary, Alberta, will be reviewed by a panel comprised of experts who work with domestic and sexual violence survivors. The proposed three-year project is the brainchild of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women and the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre. Funding is coming from Status of Women Canada.

The aim of the project is to increase the number of charges levied against alleged perpetrators of sexual assault. Statistics show that fewer than 1 per cent of sexual assault cases end in criminal convictions. Those who aren’t satisfied with the way their report was handled now have to file a complaint on their own. The project hopes to uncover gaps in the system, with the panel giving a report to police every quarter.

Any cases that include minors won’t be a part of the project. Details the panel finds police missed will be noted with those cases being reopened before the likelihood of evidence being lost. One of the goals of the project is to elevate the number of charges laid and having more cases investigated rather than to be labelled unfounded. When an investigator makes the assertion that no crime has been committed it is deemed to be unfounded.

The low percentage of charges being laid in these cases apparently discourages women from coming forward. Experts say if women had advocates behind them, more charges might be laid. They reiterate that charges should be levied when evidence supports it.

Those charged with sexual assault in Ontario have the right to obtain legal counsel. A lawyer will ensure his or her accused client will get the best legal representation possible. A lawyer will assess the circumstances surrounding the client’s arrest and address any legal or factual issues in court with the goal of achieving the best  possible result.

Source: cbc.ca, “Ontario police to turn over sexual assault cases for outside review“, Judy Trinh, Dec. 5, 2017

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