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Ghomeshi case: Peace bond resolutions not uncommon

Canadian Press THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO – Former CBC radio star Jian Ghomeshi apologized in court today for his "thoughtless and insensitive'' behaviour to a former colleague who had accused him of sexually assaulting her.

The apology came after the prosecution read the allegations against him.

After signing a a peace bond, the Crown withdrew the charge of sexual assault for which Ghomeshi was slated to stand trial in June.

According to the allegations, Ghomeshi grabbed Kathryn Borel, a former CBC employee, from behind at work in 2008 and ground his pelvis into her.

Ghomeshi, 48, was charged one year ago in relation to the incident.

Borel consented to waiving a court-ordered ban on publicly identifying her.

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Toronto criminal lawyer Breese Davies, who wasn’t involved in the matter and is speaking generally, says a peace bond resolution to a case such as this is not at all an unusual outcome. 

She says there are a number of reasons for such a resolution, including that a peace bond provides some degree of certainty of the outcome for everyone involved, given that trials can be incredibly unpredictable. 

“In any trial, there is a chance the accused will be convicted and there is a chance he will be acquitted.  If the accused is convicted, he risks imprisonment and a permanent criminal record, which has incredibly widespread implications in terms of the ability to travel and in some cases to work,” she says. 

Davies says a peace bond, which most often includes a condition for the accused not to contact the complainant, affords the complainant some protection against unwanted contact.  Breaching the terms of a peace bond is itself a criminal offence.

She says the peace bond means that Ghomeshi is agreeing that he is bound by certain conditions.

“It’s not a guilty plea. He is not admitting liability. The criminal charges has been withdrawn,” she says. “But he is acknowledging there is a reasonable basis for her fear for her safety and for the court to impose conditions. He is agreeing to that. She, in return, is getting the protection of knowing that he will not have anything to do with her.”

Davies says it’s important to emphasize that in almost every case, complainants are consulted by the Crown to find out whether a peace bond is a satisfactory resolution before the agreements are ever made. 

“It is a compromise solution, presumably one that everyone involved in the process, including the complainant, has said they can live with,” she says. “The other benefit to the complainant is that the matter is resolved without a trial, so she is relieved of the obligation of testifying.

“I don’t know what precipitated the agreement in this case or whether Ms. Borel sees this as some form of justice. I hope she does feel a sense of justice at the end of the process — particularly with the apology. In many cases, a peace bond resolution does give complainants a sense of justice.”

Davies says a peace bond does not make someone ineligible to enter the United States as a visitor, but a criminal conviction for sexual assault would likely preclude someone from travelling to the U.S. 

She says Ghomeshi would have likely received legal advice both from immigration and employment lawyers about the implications to travelling and working in the U.S. before he signed a peace bond. 

“A peace bond would not preclude him from travelling to the U.S. I expect that he would not have signed it without legal advice that he could live and work there, if that is what he intends to do,” Davies says. 

– With files from AdvocateDaily.com

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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