Nova Scotia

Andrew Younger's refusal to testify means Tara Gault assault case dismissed

A charge of assault against a former Liberal staffer accused of attacking Nova Scotia cabinet minister Andrew Younger was dismissed Wednesday because Younger refused to testify.

Gault accused of assaulting Younger the day Liberals officially took power from NDP

A charge of assault has been dismissed against former Liberal staffer Tara Gault. (LinkedIn)

A charge of assault against a former Liberal staffer accused of attacking Nova Scotia cabinet minister Andrew Younger was dismissed Wednesday because Younger refused to testify. 

Tara Gault had pleaded not guilty to asssaulting Younger, who is now environment minister, the day the Liberals were sworn into power more than two years ago.

Environment Minister Andrew Younger says he did not refuse to testify in the assault trial of a former Liberal staffer. (CBC)

Younger was subpoenaed to testify as part of Crown's case, but his lawyer, Brian Casey, says the minister chose not to attend court and claimed privilege as an MLA.

That means he cannot be compelled to testify while the legislature is in session, even if the House is not sitting. 

On Wednesday, Crown attorney Tanya Carter tried to have Younger's statement to police, made a year ago, entered as evidence. But Judge Greg Lenehan refused, because Younger could not be cross-examined by the defence.

"The complainant is exercising a privilege, a privilege few people in the country can claim," Lenehan said.

"But when an MLA chooses not to testify, it cannot be the law that we then allow a trial to proceed based only on a  police statement by a politician."

The charge was then dismissed.

Gault 'very relieved'

Outside the courtroom, defence lawyer Joel Pink said Gault is "very relieved" the case is over.

And he said the statement Younger gave to police may not be true because "you have to take into account the whole four years of their relationship, and that, I take it, is what Mr. Younger didn't want want to come out into the public."

Pink refused to describe the nature of the relationship between Gault and Younger.

The Crown said it only learned Younger would not testify on Monday.

Premier Stephen McNeil said Wednesday he had no idea what his cabinet minister was going to do and knows little about privilege. 

"I don't know," he said. "I'm a non-lawyer. I haven't been to court. So, I have no idea."

Casey told reporters Younger had hoped the Crown and defence would "work this out in a way that didn't involve him coming to court." 

Pink says his 29-year-old client's life has been on hold for nearly a year since the charge was laid last January. 

She had put off a job search, according to Pink, and is to be called to the Nova Scotia Bar later this week. 

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