Jian Ghomeshi trial: judge refuses to release bikini photo of alleged victim
As a second witness is expected to testify in the trial of disgraced former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, the judge ruled Thursday that a photo of the first complainant wearing a bikini that had been sent to Ghomeshi after alleged attacks took place will not be released to the media.
Justice William B. Horkins highlighted the court’s role as a “gatekeeper” for alleged victims in his decision to keep the bikini photo sealed, adding that this would not infringe on the freedom of the press.
“It’s my view that you don’t need to see it to get the picture,” he said, adding that the alleged victim “strongly opposes” the release of the photo.
“There is a broader, legally recognized interest that may be jeopardized by the release of this particular exhibit.”
WATCH: One of the women who accused former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi of sexual assault had her version of events challenged
Iris Fischer, a lawyer representing a consortium of media outlets, including Global News, told Horkins Thursday that there is a “strong presumption that the public should see what you see,” in regards to the photo.
Fischer cited the Sammy Yatim and Russell Williams trials as similar examples of cases where these types of photos had been released to the public, while a lawyer for the first witness said there was a “critical” difference between privacy and identification.
Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan said the fact that the photo had not been released to the media did not impede them from reporting on it “in detail.”
He added that there was “grave concern” that disclosure of the bikini photo could have a “chilling effect” or “deep freeze” that could potentially discourage alleged victims from coming forward in the future.
Justice Horkins said that while the court’s default position was one of “transparency,” he conceded that sealing the bikini photo in an envelope was a “departure” from that.
He highlighted exhibits from the Ashley Smith and Paul Bernardo cases as examples in relation to the release of the photo, but added that the press’ right of access to such exhibits was not “absolute.”
“Even if this photograph was released, a significant portion of it would have to be redacted,” Horkins said, before ruling that the photo would remain sealed.
Callaghan then asked for a break in the proceedings to accommodate the next witness, who is believed to be Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere, adding that a new statement had been made by her.
Ghomeshi, who skyrocketed to fame as host of CBC Radio One’s popular current affairs program Q stands accused of four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking. He has pleaded not guilty.
Forty-eight-year-old Ghomeshi, who was born in London, England but raised in Thornhill, Ont., will face a second trial in June on a separate charge of sexual assault, which arose from an alleged incident in January 2008 while he was the host of Q.
None of the allegations against Ghomeshi have been proven in court.
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