The Globe and Mail’s Sean Fine quotes Schlifer ED: ‘Amanda Dale, executive director of the Barbra Schlifer Clinic for women, said the ruling protects sex-assault victims from being discredited by the frivolous use of police documents. “We would have seen an increased reluctance to contact the police in cases of violence,” if the ruling had gone the other way’.
Court curbs access to victims’ police records in sex-assault cases
“Men accused of sexual assault do not have a right to look at police records involving women who made the sex-assault allegations when those records are not directly related to the case, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.
The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic for female victims of violence also intervened, arguing that a major reason women do not report sexual violence is that they fear their private information will be disclosed to the men who have abused them.
“Women who experience multiple inequalities, such as women with mental and physical disabilities, Aboriginal women, poor women, street-involved women and childhood sexual assault survivors, are significantly more vulnerable to sexual assault, often by multiple perpetrators,” the clinic said in a written argument to the Supreme Court. “They are also more likely to be ‘heavily documented’ by state institutions, including police, in a myriad of circumstances.”
Toronto, July 09, 2014
The Supreme Court of Canada has stated clearly that men accused of sexual assault cannot have access to unrelated records of the women who accuse them as a matter of course, in its decision today in Quesnelle.
The Barbra Schlifer Clinic was an intervener in the case.
The court was asked to determine whether this private information will now be handed over as a matter of course, regardless of the complainant’s constitutional rights or the irrelevance or dubious reliability of the documents.
We are thrilled with the unanimous decision that found in favour of our position, that highly private and potentially prejudicial police records about complainants (such as suicidal 911 calls or reports of sexual assault that have nothing to do with the accused) will not now be automatically produced to accused men without consideration of the complainants’ equality and privacy rights.
Women who experience multiple inequalities, such as women with mental and physical disabilities, Aboriginal women, poor women, street-involved women and childhood sexual assault survivors, are significantly more vulnerable to sexual assault, often by multiple perpetrators. They are also more likely to be “heavily documented” by state institutions, including police, in a myriad of circumstances.
Justice Andromache Karakatsanis wrote for a unanimous court, “Privacy is not an all or nothing right. Individuals involved in a criminal investigation do not forfeit their privacy interest for all future purposes […]“.
Women’s fears that their private information will be disclosed to the men who have abused them has always been, and continues to be a major reason for not reporting sexual assault. This is true for the women that the Barbra Schlifer Clinic (the “Clinic”) serves, and is confirmed by the experience of sexual assault front-line service providers across the country. Women are reluctant to endure re-victimization through exposure and scrutiny of their personal lives and private records, particularly in a criminal justice system where gendered and race based biases and stereotypes still permeate the investigation, prosecution and adjudication of sexual assault.
The Barbra Schlifer Clinic offers legal help, counselling and language interpretation to women who have experienced violence.
For more information please contact Executive Director, Amanda Dale at 416, 323-9149, x244.
If you are a counsellor who wants to engage in a self-reflective, ethical & collaborative practice that is non-judgmental, empathic and reflects the vision and mission statements of the Clinic, we have a new opportunity for you to join our team!
A permanent, fulltime Intake Counsellor position is currently available at the Clinic…
On Thursday June 12, the Clinic beat the election and opening of FIFA odds and had a record number of guests at our annual fundraiser, where Geri Sanson accepted her Spirit of Barbra Schlifer Award, and her original Hilary Druxman bracelet.
Check out the guest photos on Facebook!
We are within reach of our $190,000 goal! You can help get us there! Click here to donate to the Tribute.
Starting Tuesday June 10, 2014, the Barbra Schlifer Clinic and its legal team squares off with the Government to declare the federal government’s repeal of the registry for non-restricted firearms, commonly known as the long gun registry, unconstitutional.
Our press release and backgrounder are available below. Read More »