Criminal Law

Ghomeshi moves through court process quickly

Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia says it's important to note the "exceptionally efficient" manner in which the court process was handled for former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi when he appeared Wednesday on sex assault charges – and it begs the question of whether he was given special treatment because of his celebrity status.

"Some would say it's unfair that the system works so smoothly for a well-known person who is in the media and someone who is being watched by the public," she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Gadhia says the fact that Ghomeshi was driven as the only accused to the courthouse in a squad car instead of a paddy wagon with other accused persons and then immediately granted an appearance before a judge instead of a justice of the peace within an hour to receive bail is unusual and not typical for the average defendant.

"He had his own personal courtroom," she says.

However, she also says police may handle these high-profile cases in this manner to more closely-control the accused's appearance in court for public-safety reasons as there has been a massive amount of media interest in the Ghomeshi case.

Gadhia says it's not the first time a well-known accused was treated in a special manner. She pointed to Michael Byrant, Ontario former Attorney General who was charged criminally (the charges were later withdrawn), James Forcillo, the Toronto Police officer who is charged in connection with the death of Sammy Yatim, and Justin Bieber also moved through the system in a similar way.

Ghomeshi has been charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking.

The allegations haven't been proven in court.

Through his lawyer, Marie Henein, Ghomeshi has indicated that he will plead not guilty to the charges, the Canadian Press reports. She made the comments as Ghomeshi was released on $100,000 bail at a Toronto courthouse.

``We will address these allegations fully and directly in a courtroom,'' she said as a sombre-looking Ghomeshi stood by her side. ``It is not my practice to litigate my cases in the media. This one will be no different. We will say whatever we have to say in a court of law,'' said Henein, adding that Ghomeshi would not be speaking to the media either.

He was released on bail with conditions, including to live with his mother – who was present in court and acted as his surety – as well as no contact with the complainants and an agreement to surrender his passport and remain in Ontario, reports the wire service.

Gadhia says the $100,000 bail is a little high but not unreasonable.

"I can see why that bail was set in order to ensure that all of the players – his mom, he and the public – all understand this is a serious matter," she says.

Gadhia says the overcoming resistance by choking charge, an indictable offence that carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, heightens the seriousness of the charges against him. She says it's a charge that most often appears in tandem with another criminal charge. "In order to be found guilty of that offence, the Crown has to prove that the accused choked an individual in order to prevent them from resisting an assault or other offence," she says. Gadhia says it will also be interesting to see how the Crown proceeds with the five charges, keeping them together in the same trial, if the matter goes to trial after a preliminary inquiry.

The former "Q'' radio host was fired by CBC on Oct. 26 after the public broadcaster indicated it had seen "graphic evidence'' that he had physically injured a woman, says the Canadian Press. Since then, nine women have come forward with allegations that Ghomeshi sexually or physically assaulted them; three of them filed police complaints, says the article.

Toronto police said they began an investigation into allegations of sexual assault relating to Ghomeshi on Oct. 31, it says.

While Ghomeshi has admitted in a Facebook post that he engaged in ``rough sex,'' he insisted his encounters were consensual, says the wire service.

Gadhia says the public may not see Ghomeshi at any of his upcoming court appearances – the next one is scheduled for early January. She expects his lawyer to appear in court in his place after signing a designation.

"He may not have to make any appearances in court until his preliminary hearing and I would imagine that the advice his lawyer will give him is to stay out of the public eye," she says.

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