Jian Ghomeshi has been acquitted of four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance by choking.
Justice William Horkins announced his decision Thursday at the Ontario Court of Justice in a proceeding that lasted an hour and a half.
In his ruling, Horkins recapped the testimonies of each complainant, and highlighted the points where he saw inconsistencies or problems that ultimately contributed to the verdict.
He said it was “impossible for the court to have sufficient confidence in the witness’ testimony (where) a reasonable doubt exists.”
All three complainants in the case – Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere and two women who could only be identified by their initials LR and SE due to a publication ban – were found to have withheld information from police. Inconsistencies in their statements were revealed when they underwent cross-examination during the trial.
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Horkins said that the different accounts provided by each of the women “damaged their credibility” as witnesses, which made it impossible to convict Ghomeshi.
He cited an example of DeCoutere, who Horkins said he felt had “deliberately withheld information,” by providing differing stories to the Toronto Star and the police.
Horkins was careful to say that his ruling doesn’t mean that the alleged assaults did not take place, but stressed that “the most important principle of the Canadian justice system is the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.”
He said the evidence and testimonies available did not sufficiently create reasonable doubt.
Ghomeshi was one of the CBC Radio’s most well known broadcasters. His sudden dismissal from hosting the arts and culture show Q came in October 2014 after CBC executives said they had seen video of him physically injuring a woman.
Charges were laid against Ghomeshi soon after.
His trial began in Toronto at Old City Hall on Feb. 1, 2016 and lasted eight days. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In the final ruling ruling, Horkins described the behaviour of the witness LR as “odd,” but made a point to say that decisions in these cases must not be made based on arbitrary stereotypes of how victims of sexual assault should behave.
Ghomeshi sat between his lawyers, Danielle Robitaille and Marie Henein, who vigorously took notes as the ruling was read. The three complainants sat in the front row, behind Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan.
There was silence in the courtroom as the verdict was announced.
Ghomeshi was escorted out first after chatting briefly with his lawyer and family. The three complainants followed later.
The scene outside of the courtroom was a sharp contrast to the calmness inside.
Protesters stood in lines, holding signs and chanting “we believe survivors.”
One woman – who was topless and had the words “women declare Ghomeshi guilty” written on her back and torso – disrupted Crown prosecutor Michael Callaghan as he made a statement following the verdict outside the court. She was dragged away by security.
Chants grew in intensity as Ghomeshi’s sister, Jila, made a statement on the steps of the court.
“We are relieved but not surprised by the court’s decision today. It can only be surprising to those who rushed to judgment before the trial even started or before a single word of evidence had been heard,” she said.