The Schlifer Clinic is disappointed by the recent decision to drop sexual assault charges against the accused in the N.S. case, in which a woman reported she was sexually molested by her uncle and cousin as a child and has spent six years fighting for her right to testify while wearing her niqab at the criminal trial.
The Schlifer Clinic previously acted as an intervener in N.S.’s case, before the Supreme Court on December 8, 2011, arguing that compelling the removal of a complainant’s niqab would be a disincentive to the reporting of sexual assaults and impede access to justice for an already marginalized group of women.
In December, 2012, the Supreme court ruled that trial judges are to decide in individual cases whether or not witnesses can wear a niqab while testifying. In 2013, Justice Norris Weisman of the Ontario Court of Justice deemed that in order to testify in the case, N.S. would need to remove her niqab.
In early 2014, N.S. moved forward with the case, testifying without her niqab with the public excluded from the courtroom.
The Barbra Schlifer Clinic takes issue with the comments by defense counsel, Douglas Usher, suggesting that police response in sexual assault cases is governed by pro-women policies rather than the outcomes of police investigations and their determination that there are reasonable and probable grounds to lay charges. Sexual violence against women of colour is growing at an alarming rate and continuing disincentives to report (such as the outcome of the N.S. case) within the criminal justice system will continue to exacerbate the problem.
“Toronto woman who lost fight to wear niqab in court ‘disillusioned’ after Crown drops sex assault case” -Katrina Clarke, National Post
She is extremely disillusioned that she will not even have an opportunity to have her allegations heard on their merits,” David Butt, the complainant’s lawyer, said on Monday.
“I’m probably only stating the obvious to say that these lengthy proceedings took an immense personal toll on her,” he said. “At some point perhaps in the future she may well wish to speak, and perhaps speak quite loudly, about… how those who self-identify as having suffered childhood sexual abuse are treated by the court system,” Mr. Butt said.
The 38-year-old woman, who can only be identified as N.S. due to a publication ban, alleged the two relatives sexually assaulted her when she was a child.