Drinking and Consent: Rare Video Surveillance Could Change Sex Assault Trials

We will keep everyone updated as we learn more about this story and case. There are too many stories of women being persecuted for drinking during, before or after their assault. We hear too many stories of consent being a "blurred line" when alcohol is involved. There is no "blurred line" consent is consent. No means no. Violating a person who cannot consent is sexual assault. Period.

Drinking and consent: Rare video surveillance could change sex assault trials

BY AVERY HAINES & NEWS STAFF

If you’re too drunk to consent to sex, how do you know you didn’t say yes and just don’t remember it?

That is the difficult question in a sex assault trial that involves the rare use of surveillance video as evidence. The videos were taken at a Toronto bar, club and hotel last summer.

In the first video from July 18, 2015, a young woman is seen celebrating a birthday with friends at the club Lost and Found, located near King and Bathurst streets.

She later goes to the nearby Everleigh, where she meets a man. He is seen on video pouring vodka down her throat twice, slapping her on the buttocks and grinding against her on a couch.

The videos have been entered into evidence in the sex assault trial against 31-year-old Moazzam Tariq. Tariq was arrested on July 20, 2015 and charged with one count of sexual assault. He has pleaded not guilty.

MMoazzam Tariq is shown in a Toronto police handout from July 2015.

 

During closing statements, Crown lawyer Jill Witkin alleged “the accused grabs her and pulls her around the table and pours vodka down her throat. That is the first physical contact they have. The accused slaps her butt.”

Court heard that while that was happening, the woman was on the phone to a friend who was at the Thompson Diner.

The accused doesn’t appear to be drunk,” Witkin said to the judge during her closing. “He is standing vertically, speaking, dancing around, talking and she is practically asleep.”

The woman is seen on video stumbling out of the Everleigh with the accused trying to assist her down some stairs. The pair make their way to the Thompson Toronto where they are next captured on the hotel security cameras. Instead of going to the restaurant, the man can be seen stopping at the front desk to allegedly book a room.

“There is no interaction from the video that would make you reasonably accept that she was interested in the accused,” Witkin told the judge.

The woman and man are then seen by the elevator camera.

Court heard the woman has no memory of what happened that night only a quick flash where “she recalls him being on top of her and her saying ‘no’ on a few occasions.”

“She wakes up in the morning and the first thing, when she realizes where she is, she says she feels violated, feels like someone penetrated her. She is emotional and upset and goes to the police that same day,” Witkin told the judge.

The Crown wrapped up its case saying “she did not have capacity to consent and, in fact, did not consent. It is inconceivable that she would have consented to sex with the accused, roughly 20 minutes after meeting him.”

But defence lawyer Danielle Robitaille, who worked with Marie Henein during the Jian Ghomeshi trial, said the woman was performing tasks that would have required cognitive capacity immediately before entering the hotel room.

The defence argued these actions included carrying on conversations, blotting her body with a napkin, adjusting her pants, and keeping track of her purse and phone.

“She manages to keep her belongings together and is aware of her body in the world,” Robitaille countered during her closing arguments.

In court Judge Mara Greene said the video clearly shows, to some degree, the level of impairment of the female.

“There could be a number of explanations for why she looks so sleepy in that elevator,” argued Robitaille. “Conscious, capable adults are allowed to look a little sleepy, before they engage in sex.”

Robitaille told the judge the question is whether she was able to give an informed decision, not whether she regretted the decision or would have made the same decision if she was sober.

“There is not enough detail in the ‘flash memory’ to give comfort that this is something that actually happened and that she is remembering it accurately,” Robitaille told the court.

The judge only trail, which last for four days has concluded. Justice Greene will deliver a verdict on Oct. 7.


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