Cover image for Putting trials on trial : sexual assault and the failure of the legal profession / Elaine Craig.
Putting trials on trial : sexual assault and the failure of the legal profession / Elaine Craig.
Publication Information:
Montreal, Québec : McGill-Queen's University Press, 2018.

Physical Description:
xi, 307 pages ; 24 cm


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
345.7102532 CRA Book Adult General Collection

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Over the past few years, public attention focused on the Jian Ghomeshi trial, the failings of Judge Greg Lenehan in the Halifax taxi driver case, and the judicial disciplinary proceedings against former Justice Robin Camp have placed the sexual assault trial process under significant scrutiny. Less than one percent of the sexual assaults that occur each year in Canada result in legal sanction for those who commit these offences. Survivors often distrust and fear the criminal justice process, and as a result, over ninety percent of sexual assaults go unreported. Unfortunately, their fears are well founded. In this thorough evaluation of the legal culture and courtroom practices prevalent in sexual assault prosecutions, Elaine Craig provides an even-handed account of the ways in which the legal profession unnecessarily - and sometimes unlawfully - contributes to the trauma and re-victimization experienced by those who testify as sexual assault complainants. Gathering conclusive evidence from interviews with experienced lawyers across Canada, reported case law, lawyer memoirs, recent trial transcripts, and defence lawyers' public statements and commercial advertisements, Putting Trials on Trial demonstrates that - despite prominent contestations - complainants are regularly subjected to abusive, humiliating, and discriminatory treatment when they turn to the law to respond to sexual violations. In pursuit of trial practices that are less harmful to sexual assault complainants as well as survivors of sexual violence more broadly, Putting Trials on Trial makes serious, substantiated, and necessary claims about the ethical and cultural failures of the Canadian legal profession.

Author Notes

Elaine Craig is associate professor in the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Dalhousie law professor Craig's impeccably researched book, which analyzes how Canada's criminal justice system contributes to the trauma of sexual assault victims, is an outstanding work that dovetails perfectly with the #MeToo movement. Working from interviews with legal professionals, analyses of problematic judicial decisions, and reproductions of stomach-turning trial transcripts, Craig (Troubling Sex) skewers the still prevalent notion that Canadian sexual assault survivors enjoy a free pass in the courts. By reproducing contemporary accounts of aggressive cross-examinations that "whack the complainant," unsavory defense strategies intended to intimidate complainants into withdrawing their cases, and reliance on rape myths-revealing clothing, alcohol use, past sexual history-in criminal trials, Craig expertly makes the case that, despite progressive law reforms, the legal system remains predominantly unsafe for survivors. Combining academic rigor with an eminently readable style that is cohesive and fearless (prominent lawyers and judges are pointedly called to account), Craig makes several proposals-including improved education and training for all judicial system participants, public reporting of all decisions, and making courtroom culture less imposing-that would mitigate harm without impinging on the rights of the accused. This is a must-read title for judges, lawyers, politicians, courtroom staff, and anyone concerned about sexual violence. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
1 Sexual Assault and the Legal Professionp. 3
2 Pendulum Swings and Matriarchal Justice: Debunking Defence Counsel Mythsp. 24
3 A Kinder and Gentler Approach? Interrogating the Heroes of the Defence Barp. 61
4 The Sexual Assault Lawyer's Justice Projectp. 100
5 The Role of the Crown in Sexual Assault Trialsp. 135
6 Judging Sexual Assault Trialsp. 167
7 Judicial Error in Sexual Assault Casesp. 191
8 We Owe a Responsibility ...p. 219
Notesp. 229
Indexp. 301