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Supporters say racial bias a factor in conviction of Halifax lawyer

The conviction of a Halifax lawyer accused of sexual assault continues to be a controversy. The Crown argued that the 29-year-old defence lawyer sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman while she was too impaired to consent to sex. The accused, however, said that the pair had consensual sex. A victim impact statement was apparently not filed by the woman.

The man was charged with sexual assault and administering a stupefying substance, but the jury found him guilty only of sexual assault. He was acquitted of the other charge.

The verdict sparked protests in June. For his recent sentencing, a crowd of the lawyer's supporters, including family members, filled the courtroom. The lawyer is black, and his supporters believe that racial bias was a factor in his conviction. Those present at the sentencing shouted their disapproval as the lawyer was taken into custody.

The Crown and the man's defence recommended a three-year prison sentence, and that was the punishment handed down. He will also have to file as a sexual offender, and he is prohibited from owning a firearm for 25 years.

The lawyer, who expressed embarrassment and remorse at the sentencing, indicated that he intends to appeal the conviction. His supporters called for a retrial in another province.

A sexual assault conviction, even if successfully appealed, can have long-term repercussions. Generally, the strongest defence in these cases begins with early intervention in the pretrial phase. An effective criminal defence also requires a custom strategy that is appropriate for the specific circumstances of the case. Not every person accused of a sex offence is guilty, and everyone facing criminal charges has a right to challenge the evidence presented by the prosecution.

Source: Toronto Sun, "Halifax lawyer gets three years for sexual assault," Kris Sims, July 30, 2014

Source: Toronto Star, "Halifax lawyer gets 3-year jail term in race-tinged sex assault case," July 30, 2014