Why he should have kept his mouth shut!
As criminal defence lawyers, we are acutely aware of the constitutional right to remain silent, and the consequences of not exercising this important right. Even though this right exists, for the most part, in the context of criminal prosecutions, it provides helpful advice to those in the public eye facing allegations of misconduct resulting in the loss of employment and/or reputation. In the course of defending himself against allegations that he went beyond rough consensual sex in his love life, Jian Ghomeshi painted himself in a corner by dismissing the accusations as a “campaign of false allegations pursued by a jilted ex girlfriend”. We disagree strongly with Elissa Freeman’s view, expressed in The National Post on October 27th, that, by early-on putting out his side of story, Jian Ghomeshi has effectively put his attackers, and the CBC, “back on their heels”.
Jian Ghomeshi Had The Right To Remain Silent
It is ever so important to remain silent when faced with any serious allegation of impropriety, whether in the criminal law context or not, especially before all of the facts have come out in the open. As defence lawyers, we are frequently called upon by clients to advise them on whether to speak to the police, or not, in circumstances where they are suspected of or charged with a criminal offence. In the absence of knowing the substance and details of the allegations, we inevitably advise our clients to remain silent. Perhaps, the Jian Ghomeshi affair is a pointed example of why this is sound advice. When Mr. Ghomeshi first responded, it was in relation to allegations by an ex-lover as well as a freelance writer. By doing so, perhaps, he gave other women the courage to come forward (“safety in numbers”) and allege what can only be described as a “pattern of conduct” that is much more difficult to refute by taking the position that the accusations were not credible due to the questionable motives of the accusers, or that his actions were consensual, and should be confined to the privacy of one’s bedroom. As well, there is now the real risk that his publicity blunder could elevate the complaints to the criminal courts. So, to defend oneself without full disclosure of the particulars and extent of the allegations is akin to choosing to do battle with an anonymous opponent. In the present context, I pass on words of wisdom from my grandmother: “once the words leave your mouth, they no longer belong to you”.
Should You Speak To The Police?
At The Criminal Law Team, we have advised hundreds of clients on whether to speak to the police when first arrested, or while being investigated. In only a handful of cases, we have advised the clients to speak to the police. Fortunately, in those cases, the police accepted the clients’ explanations, and didn’t pursue the charges. It is our approach to first try and find out from the police as much detail about the allegations as possible. We then discuss these details with the client, however, on the understanding that we probably don’t have the complete picture, and that time constraints do not allow for an in-depth analysis of the case. Finally, we tell our clients that, if there is any truth to the allegations, they should unequivocally remain silent, and not attempt to “explain them away”. As many clients will deny their guilt at this stage, we make it clear to the clients that, if it is later determined that they have committed the act in question, their “explanation” to the police (whether it’s an alibi, claim of self-defence, etc.) may very well be proven to be false. As experienced criminal defence lawyers, we know that there is no more powerful tool for the prosecution than a denial to the police, the details which are proven to be false.
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Jian Ghomeshi Made A Serious Blunder
So, Mr. Ghomeshi, you made a serious blunder if your lawyers warned you to not make a statement, especially if there was any chance that other “victims” would come forward and allege a pattern of conduct of assaultive non-consensual behaviour. Surely, you must have been awakened to this possibility? Perhaps, you should have also consulted a criminal defence lawyer, who would have told you that, even if the acts were consensual, the consent would be vitiated if they resulted in bodily harm to their victims; that consent for “rough sex” has to be obtained in advance, and that “rough sex” has its limits.
What are your thoughts?
I came to Stephen Hebscher with a somewhat irregular case. Both my spouse and I had been mutually charged with domestic assault, a legal situation that neither of us had wished upon each other. While my spouse's lawyer had been content to seek mutually binding peace bonds, Stephen was able to get in front of the case and negotiate a withdrawal of both of our charges- the best possible outcome on BOTH sides of the table – once we successfully completing the PARs program. I remain entirely pleased with Stephen's competency, professionalism and accessibility, and would not hesitate to recommend him as a criminal defence lawyer. L.A.
Mr. Hebscher: I would like to thank you for your excellent representation of me in relation to the domestic assault charges that you worked so hard to have withdrawn. You have made a critical difference in my future and I am very happy with the outcome. I also appreciate your hard work, and the extra time and effort you have put in to deal with all the other issues that came along. I thank you for being a phone call away (or email) even when you did not have to be. I will gladly recommend your services to any of my friends or family should they ever need it. I am very grateful for what you have done.
I am impressed especially after our meeting on Monday – I was resigned that something bad would befall me, so I am very blessed to have this outcome. I thank you for the hard work that you have put into this case, and the dedication on getting me this fantastic outcome! I am so glad that we retained you as my lawyer! You have done an outstanding job and allowed me to now rebuild my life. Thank you, Bruce Karten.
Dave B. (Ajax, Ontario)
We were referred to Stephen Hebscher when our child was in need of legal representation. He was charged with sexual assault. As parents, we were quite frightened for our child but Mr. Hebscher was the calm voice of reason. We are very grateful to Mr. Hebscher for the excellent results he got for our child, as the charges were dropped.
J.N. (Toronto, Ontario)
Mr. Hebscher is a very professional lawyer who takes pride in his work and because of this the end result was the judge ruling me not guilty and I got my innocence and life back. My family and I would like to thank you again Stephen Hebscher for doing a wonderful job and also being a very supportive man.
Chris T. (Scarborough, Ontario)
I am happy to report that Bruce’s superior negotiation strategy and ability to present facts effectively helped convince the Crown to reduce his position. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bruce for getting my charge withdrawn and keep my criminal record clean.
J.S (Toronto, Ontario)
I looked and found Barrister Stephen Hebscher I introduced myself and my case and after listening to all details he was able to ensure me that my case would go well. All charges against me have be thrown out and my life is back to normal.
Blair H. (North York)
Bruce ...The care and concern you showed us during our dealings certainly helped to reduce the stress we were under. I would recommend you without a second thought. Your winning record is a bonus as well. My husband and myself can't thank you enough for all you've done for our family.
Debi T. (Mississauga, Ontario)
Dear Mr. Hebscher...There are not enough words to express my appreciation for your...giving me your undivided attention at all times, work in my case with your heart and soul, that makes you "ONE OF A KIND" lawyer.
Ahmed A. (Brampton, Ontario)
Mr. Bruce Karten was able to help to extricate me from a very serious criminal case containing severe charges, including weapons –threat to use weapons, death threat, harassment,etc. He succeeded in winning my case. I was discharged; was able to keep my career, and no criminal record. This was a tremendous accomplishment, and I am very appreciative of that.
Nickolai V. (Toronto, Ontario)
Again, from the depth of our hearts we sincerely thank you very much for being my Counsel on this case. We now can say you are the BEST and we will surely recommend you to our friends and anybody here we know who needs the best Lawyer in Ontario. You have done an extremely good job and we are very happy with the outcome this morning.
Roman A. (Markham, Ontario)
Mr. Hebscher was the only lawyer who gave me hope and made me feel like I had a real fighting chance. I am extremely satisfied with the quick results that he delivered, and I am happy to say that he was able to convince the court to drop the charges against me and clear my name.
Tina M. (Toronto, Ontario)