Toronto firm that defended Ghomeshi on sex assault charges is now representing one of Weinstein's accusers sending a "chilling message" to survivors about how the justice system works, says Linda Christina Redgrave
When she heard that the law firm of Toronto criminal lawyer Marie Henein will be representing the Toronto model and actor (known only as Jane Doe) who is among those suing Hollywood exec Harvey Weinstein for sexual harassment, Linda Christina Redgrave says she felt sick.
Henein is the lawyer who successfully defended former CBC radio personality Jian Ghomeshi against sexual assault and other charges, including one charge of choking, in a high profile case in 2016. Redgrave was the first of four witnesses to testify against Ghomeshi.
She says the fact that the firm that defended Ghomeshi is now representing Jane Doe in two sexual assault allegations against Weinstein, the film mogul at the centre of a growing sexual assault scandal, “sends a chilling message to [sexual assault] victims about how the justice system works. When a lawyer such as Henein is on every side of the fence, where is the consistency in anything?”
Redgrave, who came under devastating attacks from Henein during her testimony against Ghomeshi, says she’s now left wondering if the lawyer’s courtroom theatrics during the trial “was a show.”
Henein did not respond to several requests from NOW for comment. She rose to legal notoriety defending former attorney general Michael Bryant on criminal negligence charges in the death of cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard in 2009. And has developed a reputation for raising eyebrows ever since. She was the keynote speaker at last October’s Innocence Canada (formerly the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted) Wrongful Conviction Day gala at the Law Society of Upper Canada.
Actor Lucy DeCoutere, another of Ghomeshi’s accusers, posted on Twitter after the Weinstein scandal broke that she would not be commenting on the story or the online activism it sparked with #MeToo. However, when contacted by NOW about Henein, she says she can understand why Jane Doe would avail herself of Henein’s services.
“For decades she has represented men who have been accused of the same crimes as Harvey Weinstein so she has more familiarity with the alleged assailants’ perspective than most.”
For Deb Singh, a counsellor at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, the Ghomeshi and Weinstein cases illustrate the failure of the legal system to deal with sexual violence. Ghomeshi was charged criminally. When Redgrave and DeCoutere were on the stand, they were there as witnesses to give evidence for the Crown and were not able to have their own lawyer represent them in court. The case being brought against Weinstein is a civil matter, which means Weinstein’s accuser will have the benefit of her own lawyer in court. Singh says a legal system built around proving who is right and wrong will never address the root causes of issues of violence against women.
Another Jane Doe, the Toronto activist who successfully sued Toronto police back in 1998 for negligence for failing to notify the public that the man who raped her was on the loose assaulting women in her neighbourhood, says problem is not Henein, but laws that allow for representation of the accused but not accusers in sexual assault cases.
“Sexually assaulted women must have legal representation at trial as our laws allow defence lawyers to shame, attack and humiliate them to place blame on them for what has happened,” says Doe.
Still, Doe says she remains deeply conflicted about Henein’s defense of Ghomeshi – Doe worked closely with Henein while Doe was heading a coalition of groups supporting the human and labour rights of sex workers. “Her work was outstanding and pro bono,” says Doe.
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