Enright vs. Angus re Ghomeshi and the presumption of innocence
Over the past few weeks, Michael Enright and NDP MP Charlie Angus have had a difference of opinion, about whether or not it is appropriate for a respected Member of Parliament (Mr. Angus) to state publically that a defendant in a criminal trial is guilty, before the case has been decided by the court.
Here is the exchange in full:
On February 10, 2016, NDP MP Charlie Angus posted a comment on his Facebook page - here's an excerpt:
"I have known Jian Ghomeshi casually for 25 plus years. What did I learn from the trial? - that nobody close to Jian even pretends he is innocent, and somehow this isn't an issue -- the women are."
Follow this link to read Mr. Angus's post in full.
"Nobody close to Jian even pretends he is innocent, and somehow this isn't an issue -- the women are." - Charlie Angus
This is an abridged version of what Michael said on the radio on February 21. To hear or read his essay in full, click here.
"Charlie Angus is an exemplary MP. But what he said about Ghomeshi's presumed guilt chills me.
The greatest attribute of our criminal justice system is the presumption of innocence. It is called the Golden Thread, and it means that any person charged with a crime is innocent in the eyes of the law until convicted by a court.
The greatest attribute of our criminal justice system is the presumption of innocence. It is called the Golden Thread, and it means that any person charged with a crime is innocent in the eyes of the law until convicted by a court.- Michael Enright
Whether you are Charles Manson or Jian Ghomeshi, you are legally innocent, despite what a politician might say. Cut that Golden Thread or diminish the concept of presumed innocence and the entire criminal justice system is shaken. ... [Charlie Angus's] impulse to impute guilt before a conviction I find troubling, especially, coming as it does, from a respected Member of Parliament."
On February 28, 2016, Mr. Angus responded with another Facebook post. Michael read an abridged version of the post on air, along with some comments from listeners, which you can listen to here.
Here's an excerpt from Mr. Angus's Facebook post of Feb. 28:
I have always been a big fan of your show so needless to say, when I heard myself being called out for my Facebook comments on the Ghomeshi trial I wondered if this Sunday morning (February 20) was going to turn into a very bad day indeed.
This trial has generated an unprecedented level of public debate. I was very cognizant of the fact that Ghomeshi opted to be tried by judge and so the ruling will be unlikely swayed by any public commentary, including mine. ...
I agree that [the presumption of innocence] is a principle we must all uphold. My comments on Facebook were an expression of frustration that such a presumption does not seem to extend to the victims of sexual violence. ...
I suppose as a legislator I should be able to sit back and say that this may be unfortunate but it is how legal sausages gets made. However, as a father of three young women, I have had my eyes opened to the weighted scales of justice in crimes of sexual violence. ...
"As a father of three young women, I have had my eyes opened to the weighted scales of justice in crimes of sexual violence." - Charlie Angus
I never dreamed that my rather short Facebook commentary would go so viral, but it speaks to the fact that this trial has struck a raw nerve in Canadian society where these issues often lie dormant. ...
With the greatest respect,