Toronto Sexual Abuse Trials
The amount of time a sexual abuse trial in Toronto can take to resolve varies based on the circumstances of the case. There have been trials in the record that lasted six months. Many cases may not take as long.
There are a number of factors that can influence the amount of time a sexual abuse case takes to make it through the trial process. The number of witnesses, plaintiffs, and defendants can lengthen a trial, because it takes time for everybody to present their testimony and to be cross-examined. Every time someone is presenting evidence in court, the admissibility of that evidence can be challenged, and that adds another layer of complexity, given how fiercely contested these cases tend to be.
A trial may be lengthened by some of the legal complexities in the claim itself. For example, historical sexual abuse claims typically take longer to litigate because the court is dealing with a number of evidentiary issues around things like the recovery and reconstruction of memory, and the expert opinion required to deal with evidence of that nature. These types of legal complexities can significantly extend the lengths of a trial, even in cases where there is only one plaintiff and one defendant.
In cases with multiple plaintiffs and multiple defendants, the court will consider liability and damages evidence for each one. The nature of the trial becomes focused on what is necessary to make a claim for each plaintiff or against each defendant, and that involves coordinating the liability case and the damages case in each claim.
Process of Trial
If the case is heard in a jury trial, it will begin with jury selection, but the bulk of a trial always consists of the presentation of the evidence. This involves calling witnesses, and the party who calls the witness conducts their examination-in-chief. The party who is adverse to the witness cross-examines, and there is an opportunity for re-examination. That proceeds through the entire list of witnesses through whom any documentary or other circumstantial or opinion evidence is presented to the court.
Evidence may also be subject to voir dire hearings to determine whether or not the court will consider that evidence. Certain evidence may be inadmissible for various reasons, and in sexual abuse cases, there is a significant incentive for each party to render as much of the other party’s evidence inadmissible as possible.
After the evidence of each side is before the court, each side closes and there is an opportunity for reply. These are the dramatic courtroom speeches that people think of when they think of lawyers in films, but in reality, the vast majority of a trial simply consists of moving through the evidence.
Jury or Bench Trials
A sexual abuse injury trial in Toronto could be a jury trial or a bench trial, depending on whether a jury notice is made. Often, in sexual abuse claims, a jury notice will not be given because of the probability that jury members will be sympathetic to a person who alleges that they were the victim of sexual abuse. Defendants sometimes feel that they can obtain a fairer hearing before a judge alone.
These are very complex cases in terms of the evidence, and jury selection hinges on whether the complexity of the evidence exceeds the ability of the jury to comprehend it.
Jury selection variables include pre-trial knowledge of the legal and social aspects of these issues, sexual attitudes, and beliefs, but the most important question will always be whether the level of complexity in the case exceeds a jury’s capacity to make a reasonable decision.
Working with a Lawyer
Victims of sexual abuse deserve representation from lawyers who will commit all available resources in terms of legal expertise, professional time, and energy to support the position of their client in every aspect of how the case is prosecuted, from the time their client seeks legal counsel to the time the case goes to trial.
Often, the plaintiff in a sexual abuse case will be compelled to undergo a defense medical examination, where the defense may retain experts to examine the plaintiff to evaluate the strength of their case and the credibility of their claim. This can be a very traumatizing experience to the extent that the examining medical practitioner can fairly be regarded as an extension of the defendant. Typically the terms of the defense medical examination, such as where and how it happens, are set at the discretion of the defense. However, the court retains the ultimate discretion to intervene and set the terms of the examination. Toronto lawyers are very proud of their experience in contesting motions dealing with the terms of such examinations, in support of proceeding terms on which the plaintiff would be comfortable.