Criminal Law

OCA ruling on sexual assault case is fair and just: Neuberger

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

In a case where the complainant couldn’t identify her assailant and the DNA evidence was inconclusive, the Ontario Court of Appeal has rightfully ordered a new trial, Toronto criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger tells the Globe and Mail.

If the guilty verdict had not been thrown out, "This case would have amounted to a miscarriage of justice," he says.

Neuberger, a partner with Neuberger & Partners LLP, comments generally on the matter and wasn’t involved directly.

A man was convicted of sexually assaulting the woman and was sentenced to 18 months in jail, says the article. The OCA tossed the conviction and ordered a new trial; the panel said in its ruling that it was a “weak case,” the newspaper reports.

"There is always the risk that a jury may treat forensic evidence as infallible because of its scientific nature and, as a result, overemphasize its significance," the court said. "It is therefore very important that forensic evidence is carefully and accurately explained."

The Globe also notes that the ruling “comes amid a raging debate over whether the criminal process provides justice for sexual-assault victims.

“It is the latest of several, in Ontario and elsewhere, in which courts have thrown out convictions and ordered new trials after finding basic principles of justice had not been met. And, as with some high-profile cases of the past year, it involved severe intoxication, although not the issue of consent,” says the article.

Neuberger says, “It's extremely important that we adhere to the principles that have come into play over many, many years," such as proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

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