Nova Scotia

Judge shouldn't be removed for 'legal error' in cabbie acquittal: NDP critic

New Democrat MLA Marian Mancini says her time in politics helps her understand the outrage surrounding a Halifax taxi driver's acquittal on sex assault changes, but her history as a lawyer makes her uneasy about the way some of that outrage is being expressed.

Marian Mancini understands outrage over cabbie's acquittal, but worries about how some are expressing it

NDP justice critic and former lawyer Marian Mancini thinks Judge Gregory Lenehan made a mistake but it shouldn't result in his removal from the bench. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Marian Mancini's time as an MLA has given her a perspective she didn't really have while practising law, but she also can't undo being a lawyer.

The NDP justice critic is troubled by much of the fallout from the recent decision by Judge Gregory Lenehan to acquit a Halifax taxi driver on a charge of sexual assault. For one, she disagrees with the decision.

'I think he made a mistake'

But Mancini also disagrees with much of the fury stemming from the decision, particularly as it's been directed at Lenehan.

"I think he made a mistake, but it was a legal error. It doesn't turn him into a misogynist that needs to be removed from the bench," Mancini, the member for Dartmouth South, said in an interview.

"It's those quantitative leaps that are being made out there right now that I really have a problem with."

Judge Gregory Lenehan is seen here in 2009 when he was Crown attorney. (CBC)

Message within the decision

Mancini worries that many of the calls for Lenehan's removal are coming without the benefit of seeing the full transcript of his decision.

She didn't like the now infamous line "clearly, a drunk can consent" any more than the people protesting in the Grand Parade on Tuesday, but Mancini said she sees something else when she reads the full decision.

"I don't think this is uncommon for a judge to make a difficult decision that personally he might find maybe repugnant to make, but felt that he had to apply the law. When I looked at [the full decision], that's what I saw."

Concerned about mob mentality

Still, Mancini said it was also clear to her there were issues that could be appealed, something the Crown gave notice on Tuesday it would do.

She described Lenehan as "compassionate" and "highly regarded" during his time as a Crown prosecutor. Mancini said she understands the outrage happening right now but believes it should be rooted in information and education — not emotion — for it to be productive.

"I perfectly accept that the public will react to what's happening in the courts — especially now, maybe more so, as an MLA," said Mancini, who won't reoffer in the next election. "I completely respect the role of the public; they have very much a right to do that.

"I have a problem when the public starts turning more into a mob and that causes me concern."

About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca