Neuberger & Partners LLP - Sex Charges Against Teacher | Video Transcript

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ANCHOR: A Toronto judge will render his verdict tomorrow on sex crime charges against a former upper Canada college teacher. 55-year-old Douglas Brown is facing 11 counts of indecent assault and 1 count of gross indecency.
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ANCHOR: He has pleaded not guilty to all charges related to the alleged attacks on seven former students. Yesterday, Crown attorney Warren Thompson made his closing address to Justice Harry LaForme. And our legal analyst, Joseph Neuberger, has been following this case for us since it began. Good morning.

JOSEPH NEUBERGER: Good morning.

ANCHOR: You have seven former students testifying against Douglas Brown. Does the defense have a case at all?

JOSEPH NEUBERGER: It's extremely difficult in a case, especially the historical sexual assault case where an individual is facing not one, not two, but several complainants. Seven is extremely difficult. The Crown will have a much more compelling case when they can utilize the evidence from seven witnesses and try and bolster each allegation.

When a case is so old it's very difficult simply because of reliability. Is memory the same over time? A person's perceptions or memory of what has happened has faded over time. It may be replaced by what they thought happened as opposed to what actually did happen. However, when you have seven complainants come forward with similar testimony testifying as to similar allegations, the is very powerful for the Crown case.

Now, what the defense has to do is first of the all, the tactic is do you proceed before a judge alone or are you going to have a judge and jury trial. Justice LaForme is known to be a very fair, competent and intelligent judge.

You will then attack the reliability of each witness. You want to take a look at their ability to perceive. All the constellation of facts which come to the case. What has happened to these people over the years. Is there something about their current life or the way they remember things which will detract from their memories? And somehow, if you can attack each and every case, one of those seven, start to pull a thread through them that may be helpful to he defense.

In addition, you want to see how the allegations come out. So in this case as well you want to work on sort of the unfolding of the allegations by each complainant. If there's a situation where there has been some collusion or collaboration of witnesses or evidence. These are very important factors to attack on. But it is an extremely difficult task for a defense lawyer to try and convince a judge or a jury that this individual is not guilty of all of the charges.

And when you're in a trial, it may be a situation where a judge takes a look at each and every allegation. And there may be a situation where the judge says, you know on counts one through whatever we have sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, but on these counts it doesn't meet that threshold. It is suspicious, it's compelling, but it doesn't meet the threshold of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, so.

ANCHOR: Now, Brown took the stand in his own defense. How did he do?

JOSEPH NEUBERGER: Well, I don't like to comment on the evidence prior to the justice rendering his decision. However, it is a very difficult process for an individual to testify in this type of a case.

And from what I understand, from the evidence, he certainly held his ground, however, there was some new evidence which arose from his testimony. And frankly when, when one individual is facing seven accusers it's a situation where an individual will, will sometimes just look like they're not telling the truth.

ANCHOR: Now you mentioned that new information that came to light while Brown was on the stand and the judge was pretty critical of the Crown about nondisclosure. Will that have an impact?

JOSEPH NEUBERGER: It, it may have an impact at this trial or may even have an impact if there's an appeal. It's, it's common sometimes once an accused takes the stand for the Crown to then say there's some new evidence arising from that testimony.

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JOSEPH NEUBERGER: And then try and either deal with it by way of reply evidence or try and even interject somehow during the course of the testimony of the accused.

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JOSEPH NEUBERGER: And, and Justice LaForme is an extremely fair judge. Evidence which ought to have been properly part of the Crown's case, evidence that ought to have been disclosed can sometimes cause a mistrial.

Once an accused testifies they have put themselves on those allegations. They have given their version. You can't take back what they've said. You have cross examined witnesses for the Crown on a theory that the defense has worked on. As such, once evidence arises which the Crown ought to have had or ought to have disclosed, it can severely prejudice an accused and his defense. This could factor in, in raising a reasonable doubt on various counts. It could factor in possibly if, if there is a conviction on how this will be dealt with by way of an appeal.