Confidence in the criminal justice system crucial for reporting of sexual violence
March 17, 2016
For immediate release
HALIFAX, NS – Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie wants to see the McNeil government review the laws and take action in light of sentences handed down in recent sexual assault cases.
“I, like many Nova Scotians, was shocked and disappointed in some of the recent rulings of sexual assault cases,” says Baillie. “The victims of these heinous crimes deserve and expect more from their justice system. These sentences do not fit the crime and we should all be asking, ‘why not?’”
Mitchell Leeander Goodwin was sentenced last week to 90 days in jail to be served on weekends for sexual assault and uttering threats after having non-consensual sex with a woman in 2012. In another case, Joshua-Douglas Everette Jackson was acquitted of sexually assaulting a fellow student after the judge ruled the man had mistakenly believed he had the woman’s consent to initiate intercourse in 2014.
“There is clear case law around consent in this country and how consent is interpreted in the justice system,” says Baillie. “The McNeil government cannot remain silent in the face of these rulings.”
Statistics show that the reporting of spousal violence against women is tied to women’s confidence in the criminal justice system’s ability to respond to spousal victimization. The Liberals’ Sexual Violence Strategy doesn’t address issues in the justice system.
“This strategy needs an ‘Access to Justice’ section to restore confidence for victims and strike fear into perpetrators,” says Baillie. “If the victims of sexual violence don’t feel confident that the justice system has their backs, they won’t go to the police, they will stop coming forward and the violence will continue.”
Dalhousie University law professor Wayne MacKay told the Canadian Press that the “low conviction rate and historically modest sentences” for sexual assault crimes highlight the need for a review.
Baillie is calling on Minister Whalen to begin a review of our justice system’s approach to sexual assault cases in the province and for Minister Bernard to make ‘Access to Justice’ part of the Sexual Violence Strategy. If his Ministers fail to act, Baillie says the responsibility for ensuring Nova Scotians are protected rests with Premier McNeil.