Éric Salvail and Gilbert Rozon: Reasonable Doubt Explained
February 10th, 2021
of a sexual nature. In both cases, the ruling of acquittal was due to a lack of credible evidence, or reasonable doubt by the respective judge. As a lawyer with extensive experience in defending people facing sex crime charges, I am often asked:
- What does “reasonable doubt” mean?
- How can reasonable doubt be used as a defense?
- Am I automatically considered guilty if there is any evidence against me?
In this article we’ll address these questions using the Salvail and Rozon acquittals as an example of how reasonable doubt can play out in the courtroom.
What does “reasonable doubt” mean?
Reasonable doubt is a standard of proof that must be surpassed to convict an accused in a criminal proceeding. In other words, it is the minimum amount of certainty needed by the judge to rule not guilty.
When there is reasonable doubt about the guilt of the defendant, that is to say that the judge or jury is not certain about the evidence, the verdict should be not guilty, otherwise known as acquitted.
In the cases of Éric Salvail and Gilbert Rozon, the judges did not find the evidence credible enough to find the men guilty of their alleged sex crimes. Rozon, 66 year old founder of the Just for Laughs festival, was accused of rape and indecent assault but was acquitted on December 15, 2020 due to reasonable doubt. Television personality Salvail was acquitted just three days later on December 18, 2020 on charges of sexual assault, forcible confinement and criminal harassment.
How can reasonable doubt be used as a defense?
Reasonable defense is not actually a tactic used by defense lawyers. Reasonable doubt is part of the verdict; a reason to acquit the defendant as a result of the case presented by the defense. If you have been accused of a sex crime, a good defense lawyer with experience in dealing with this specialized area of the law will work to find holes in the prosecution’s case and plant enough doubt in the mind of the judge or jury to meet the minimum standard of reasonable doubt.
For example, in her decision on the Rozon case, Québec court Judge Mélanie Hébert wrote that acquittal didn’t mean the alleged incidents didn’t occur or that the victim was not credible but that the case was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Am I automatically considered guilty if there is any evidence against me?
No. One of the most fundamental rights in the Canadian justice system is the presumption of innocence. Our laws protect the accused and guarantee that their legal rights must be respected until the judge or jury makes a decision. An accusation of sexual assault does not imply “go directly to jail, do not pass go” for anyone. Ever.
It is up to the prosecution to provide enough evidence to convince the judge that you are guilty of the sex crimes you have been charged with. They must show enough proof of your crime so that there is no reasonable doubt that you did it. Again, the job of your lawyer is to show the judge that there IS reasonable doubt of your guilt.
In the Salvail case, Quebec Court Judge Alexandre Dalmau felt that the credibility of the witnesses was lacking and therefore he had enough reasonable doubt to acquit Salvail of his sex cimes.
If you have been charged with a sex crime and are looking for a defense lawyer in Ontario or Québec contact me online or by calling 450-332-6511. Your first call is free, and most importantly, here, we believe you.