New legal toolkit aims to help counsel representing clients in sexual assault cases

The toolkit covers the law on admissibility of evidence of complainant’s sexual activity

New legal toolkit aims to help counsel representing clients in sexual assault cases

West Coast LEAF has released a toolkit for lawyers representing clients in sexual assault proceedings.

The group said their 2018 report showed a host of issues faced by survivors of sexual assault when navigating the legal and justice system. The disclosure of private records and the introduction of evidence regarding sexual history can be a painful intrusion that can deter them from reporting the incident in the first place, or from availing of support services such as counselling, said West Coast LEAF.

The toolkit, developed by West Coast LEAF as part of a larger project undertaken with the YWCA Metro Vancouver, seeks to aid complainant counsel in dealing with Criminal Code matters relating to the admissibility of evidence of the complainant’s sexual activity and relating to the production of third-party records.

Aside from giving an overview of this complex legal field, the toolkit also advises lawyers on how to build a trauma-informed practice which challenges the myths and stereotypes plaguing the legal system, and which safeguards survivors’ safety, privacy, confidentiality and access to justice, said West Coast LEAF.

“While many survivors do not pursue justice and healing through the Canadian criminal justice system, those who choose to report sexual assault must receive the highest standard of legal representation,” said West Coast LEAF in a news release.

With the help of Courthouse Libraries and the Province of B.C., West Coast LEAF is also offering a series of webinars tackling this area of law. The first webinar will cover the same topics explored in the toolkit and will feature a panel discussion and a question-and-answer portion.

West Coast LEAF is a B.C.-based organization that aims to use the law in order to progress toward an equal and just society for women and individuals facing gender-based discrimination.

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