Here is a letter that I wrote commenting on the post by Jonathan Jay entitled “Ignoring the Innocent” that appeared in the National Post. This letter I wrote will appear in response to it:
Re: Acquitted By The Courts, Convicted By Google, Jonathan Kay, Nov. 13.
I practise exclusively in criminal defence law and of that, I would say about 40% of my cases are sexual in nature. All too often people’s reputations are destroyed on the drop of a press release, with no regard for correcting that once an individual is acquitted. A very large majority of my cases have resulted in withdrawals or acquittals, but none of those individuals have ever been able to restore their lives to what it was before.
What is more troubling is that this attitude is reinforced by the system itself. Every police force I have dealt with refuses to destroy a person’s record and fingerprints, even after an acquittal. To make matters worse, they will then go on to disclose that information to anyone who requests a certain type of police check (i.e. a “vulnerable persons’ screening,” used before hiring gym coaches or paramedics). The police will argue that they will indicate the charge was “withdrawn” or “acquitted.” However, an employer will undoubtedly ask why the police would even disclose such information unless it had merit or there was something more to it. Anyway you look at it, being charged with a sexual assault will ruin your life, unless you run your own business doing roofing or fixing small motors.
It is a very unsympathetic and unfair world for those who have been wrongfully accused and I don’t see the courts stepping in anytime soon to do anything about. I am in the process of bringing such a case through the system right now and I can only hope that my client does not run out of money in funding this huge undertaking in challenging police policies of this nature, and that the Court of Appeal will ultimately say that these practices infringe an individual’s rights on several levels.
Anyway, great column. And my advice to anyone is to keep your doors at your office open, and never coach children’s sports or babysit.
Sean Robichaud, Toronto.