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Criminal

Time for police to stop automatically believing victims: Neuberger

Canadian police should follow the example of their counterparts in the U.K. and stop automatically believing sexual assault complainants, Toronto criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger tells AM 640 Toronto.

Neuberger, a partner with Neuberger & Partners LLP, weighed in after Cressida Dick, the commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, announced her force had dropped guidelines requiring officers to assume the truth of complaints following an inquiry into a series of flawed sex crime investigations.

"We should have an open mind when a person walks in and we should treat them with dignity and respect and we should listen to them and we should record what they say,” Dick said.

"Our job is not all about victims. Our job in investigations is to be fair, to be impartial and when appropriate to bring things to justice,” she added.

“Kudos to this commissioner,” Neuberger told host Tasha Kheiriddin,

“How can we have impartial investigations in this country where the policy of the police is to ‘believe victims,’” he added, blaming Canadian cops’ credulous attitude to complainants on an overreaction to the social media campaign following Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal on numerous sexual assault charges.

“It perverts the system of justice, and like they say in the United Kingdom, it strikes at the very core of the criminal just process, which will generate miscarriages of justice on a considerable scale,” Neuberger said.

However, Neuberger said recent moves by the Federal government suggest the pendulum is not yet ready to swing back in favour of fair trials for those accused in Canada.

He pointed to the recently introduced Bill C-51, which he said will have effectively curb cross-examination of complainants by forcing accused persons to turn over text messages and other correspondence between the two parties for a judge to decide whether they violate rape shield protections.       

“It’s an attack on the right to make full answer on defence and it’s an attack on fairness,” Neuberger told Kheiriddin, noting that the rape shield provisions in question have been in place and operating well for a long time.

“I think it is a very poor response by a government that is being quite activist in managing criminal justice issues when they should frankly stay out of it,” he added.

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