Complainant in Jian Ghomeshi's sexual assault trial waives publication ban
Linda Redgrave says she wants to help sex assault survivors better navigate the legal system
The woman known only as "L.R." or "Complainant No. 1" in Jian Ghomeshi's sexual assault trial has waived her right to a publication ban, saying she wants to use her name and her experience in the courtroom to help sexual assault complainants.
Her name is Linda Redgrave.
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Ontario Court Judge William Horkins granted Redgrave's request last Thursday, exactly three weeks after the former CBC Radio host was acquitted on four counts of sexual assault and one of choking to overcome resistance pertaining to Redgrave, Lucy DeCoutere and a third complainant.
The Toronto woman — known to most throughout the trial as a Woodbridge, Ont., resident who met Ghomeshi in December 2002 — was one of the first to speak to the media before police laid charges in October 2014.
She did so anonymously. Only Lucy DeCoutere waived the automatic publication ban before the trial.
"At that point, I still didn't know what I wanted. But in the back of my mind I thought, 'One day I want people to know who I am,'" Redgrave told CBC News. "It's not because I want sympathy and it's not because I want everyone to [know], 'Hey, I'm Witness Number One.' It's because I'm holding myself to my intention of helping others."
On March 23, the day before Horkins acquitted Ghomeshi, Redgrave published the website ComingForward.ca, which now includes links to health and legal resources for sexual assault survivors, a blog about her experience at trial, and an area for men and women to submit stories about trauma.
Redgrave said she purposely published the site before Horkins delivered his decision — a ruling that found her credibility "suffered irreparable damage" on cross-examination, leading the judge to call some of her evidence "demonstrably false" — so that she would be forced to follow through with it regardless of the next day's outcome.
"I thought it would be far too easy to say, 'I'll do it later,' and just not do it and run away and hide," she said. "This has been the kind of thing where you could easily just run and hide."
Redgrave said she knows she wasn't "stellar" in the witness box, saying she had no experience being there. And that's exactly why she said she wants to turn an exhausting, very public time of her life into a lesson for others.
"I'm hoping to develop a place where people can leave stories, read stories," she said. "And I want to have a guide written on testifying under cross-examination — so someone has an idea of what they're up against."
For Redgrave, she said that means understanding how your police statement will be presented in court.
Although Redgrave had legal counsel to prepare her for trial, she said she did not have a lawyer when she gave her first statement to police. And that statement largely determined the narrative of her allegations, she said.
It's also a document that gets disclosed to defence counsel and can be used to cross-examine a witness.
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Redgrave said she wishes she had better understood that.
Since she can't change what happened, she said she wants to revise the first point of contact that sexual assault survivors generally have with the legal system: the police.
"The accused gets arrested, they get read their rights," she said. "But a witness doesn't. They don't know their rights."
She said she would like to see sex-crimes units provide complainants with written guidelines that explain the legal process, from that first police statement through to decision day. Until that's possible, she hopes police will encourage witnesses to get legal advice before being interviewed.
"This statement is going to court and this is the only statement you're going to have. I didn't know that," she said. "I thought it was the green light to investigate."
No one from the Toronto Police Service could be reached on Sunday afternoon to explain how they interview a potential sex assault complainant.
Friends and family encouraged Redgrave to maintain her anonymity, she said. Her lawyer had already fought in court to keep a photo of her in a string bikini sent to Ghomeshi out of the public realm. It remains sealed in evidence.
While Redgrave said she used her anonymity to stay focused during the trial — which had media, lawyers, and interested observers lining up before dawn — she said she thinks the publicity can now be used for a better reason.
She's already gotten messages from people offering to help her advocate for changes to the legal system, she said.
"But I can't do that in a trench coat and glasses."