Ghomeshi verdict highlights a Double Standard

Former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi

Former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi

Courts slam witnesses for lying, but one group gets a pass.

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

The reality in criminal courts is, like it or not, that if a major witness is exposed lying, fabricating evidence, grossly exaggerating or in any way modifying their evidence to better ensure a conviction, then the charges against the accused will likely be dismissed.

Jian Ghomeshi, the former CBC Radio host, was found not guilty on four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance in connection with allegations made by three women. The judge overseeing the case, Ontario Court Justice William Horkins, said about the witnesses, “The act of suppression of the truth will be as damaging to their credibility as a direct lie under oath.”

Each of the three witnesses did not tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but truth, therefore the judge tossed the charges.

Justice Horkins came down hard on the witnesses, going as far as to criticize the three complainants for their “willingness to ignore their oath to tell the truth on more than one occasion.” (Globe & Mail: Truth and deception: Ghomeshi verdict a good day for justice)

The judge found that the witnesses were on a mission to bring Mr. Ghomeshi down. In one of the thousands of e-mails Ms. DeCoutere exchanged with S.D, she said she wanted to see Ghomeshi “decimated.” Add the fact that each of the witnesses was caught lying to the court and you open the door for charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and commit perjury. Those charges will not happen because the public would be outraged, but perjury is perjury even if the witness was sexually assaulted and is truly a victim.

Ghomsehi was a trial very much in the public eye, so everything had to be done according to the law as best as the judge could. Public interest and press scrutiny really do assist to keep judges on the straight and narrow.

Justice Horkins did what had to be done in the Jian Ghomeshi case. He followed the rule of law and ignored the political, public and other influences.

Double Standard when it comes to lying to the court

The judge’s action in Ghomeshi highlights a double standard in the justice system; the courts always condemn witnesses for lying – but regularly look the other way when lawyers lie to the judge and knowingly place false evidence into the court record.

Even when irrefutable evidence proves that lawyers fabricated evidence and lied to the court, the rules about perjury and obstruction of justice go by the wayside as the legal profession and the courts do everything possible to save fellow members of ‘The Club’ – even if it means sending an innocent man to jail.

Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy

Superior Court Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy

In my case, Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy convicted me in absentia (I was not present) of ‘contempt of civil court’ and sentenced me to three months in jail; during a hearing I was unaware of.

I was in Asia at the time when opposing lawyers rushed through a civil costs hearing over the Christmas season. At that hearing, lawyers Gerald Rankin and Lorne Silver lied to Justice Shaughnessy and knowingly placed false evidence into the court record.

The lawyers falsely told the judge in a written ‘Statement for the Record’ and also orally in court that, during a phone call with the lawyers, I told them that I had received a copy of a certain court order. In fact, during that phone call I told the lawyers over twelve times that I had not received the court order and would they please send it to me.

Later, when confronted with my letter to the judge accusing them of lying to the court and fabricating evidence, Mr. Ranking (Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP) and Mr. Silver (Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP) doubled down on their corrupt activities and assured Justice Shaughnessy that their version of the events was true, that they categorically rejected my version and that I was therefore lying.

What Ranking and Silver did not know was that I had secretly recorded the phone call. 

The recordings irrefutably prove that these lawyers lied to the Justice Shaughnessy to obtain my conviction. (You can listen to the phone call, read the certified transcript and compare it with the false evidence the lawyers put before the court here.)

Not only that, Purolator Courier confirms that Gerald Ranking did not send me the package that Gerald Ranking and Lorne Silver swore to the judge that I had ‘confessed’ to receiving. Ranking cannot produce any tracking number, record of shipping, signature receipt, or any records at all because there are none, either at his law firm or at the courier company. Ranking lied to the court about sending me the package and lied about me ‘confessing’ that I had received it.

To ordinary Canadians, it seems simple: A voice recording conclusively proves that two lawyers were caught red-handed lying to the court and fabricating evidence to obtain my conviction.

As in the Jian Ghomeshi case where witnesses were caught lying, my conviction should have been overturned and I should not have gone to jail.

But the Ghomeshi witnesses were not lawyers. When lawyers get caught lying to the court, there is another standard that applies: save the lawyers, because they are members of ‘The Club’.

When I returned to Canada and asked for a new hearing to overturn the conviction, Justice Shaughnessy refused to consider my new evidence. He refused to listen to the voice recordings, and refused to allow me to cross-examine lawyers Gerald Ranking and Lorne Silver. Justice Shaughnessy said I had already been found guilty, and that I should go to the Appeal Court if I wished to introduce new evidence. Then he sent me to jail, while awarding further costs against me.

Lawyers Gerald Ranking and Lorne Silver lied to the court, fabricated evidence.

Lawyers Gerald Ranking and Lorne Silver lied to the court, fabricated evidence.

Lawyers Ranking, Silver and their clients fought tenaciously to prevent my appeal. At their urging, the Appeal Court of Ontario said that although my appeal had merit on certain grounds, I would not be allowed an appeal unless I deposited several hundred thousand dollars in costs previously awarded to the opposition.

Being unable to deposit three hundred thousand dollars cash, I surrendered to the inevitable and went to jail. I was denied an appeal because I couldn’t put up a cash deposit of hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover the costs the lying lawyers incurred while lying to the courts.

To date, not one judge in any court has listened to the voice recording that proves the lawyers lied to me and to the courts. No court has allowed me to cross-examine the lawyers about their lies or anything. Some might say that the courts have done everything that they possibly could to avoid having to listen to the recordings.

It worked out just fine for lawyers Gerald Ranking and Lorne Silver: ‘The Club’ sent an innocent man went to jail so that their fellow Club Members would not have to explain or be held accountable for their perjury, fabrication of evidence and other crimes.

But that doesn’t change the truth that these corrupt lawyers lied to the court, or change the truth that the justice system, the legal profession and the Law Society of Upper Canada covered for them; even at the cost of an innocent man going to jail.

In the Gohmeshi case, lawyer Gillian Hnatiw represented high-profile witness Lucy DeCoutere. After the verdict, Ms. Hnatiw told the Globe & Mail, “…my professional and personal frustration is that Canadians see the criminal justice system as the arbiter of truth and it is not. In what truth-seeking process would you require just one side to tell their story?”

And who could disagree with her? In my case, the system looked after the boys in the club through legal manoeuvres that ensured I would never be allowed an appeal where my evidence would have to be heard.

Courts are always about law and the game of law; only seldom are courts about truth or justice.

Donald Best

Photo Credits

Jian Ghomeshi: courtesy of Wikipedia

Justice Shaughnessy: public domain

Gerald Ranking, Lorne Silver: public domain

One comment

  • It is difficult to believe this story that successive courts protected lawyers to the extent of sending an innocent man to jail in the face of tape-recordings proving the lawyers lied to the court to obtain Best’s conviction.

    I listened to the tape-recording etc. The lawyers lied. The courts knew it and sent Best to jail to protect the lying lawyers.