Support groups could play vital role in courts' sentencing

July 23, 2019

Counsel Molly Reynolds has told The Lawyer’s Daily that using anonymized information discussed in support group sessions for victims who have had intimate images shared online without consent could help inform the courts.

She said the stories shared in these groups could be used as supplemental evidence in criminal and civil cases and added this supplemental information could “fill the gaps measurable evidence is lacking”.

“If you were thinking about a criminal charge under nonconsensual distribution or voyeurism offences, obviously there is a formula the court has to go through to determine the appropriate sentence,” Molly said.

“One piece of that is usually the harm the victim has suffered, and that is usually brought out… through victim impact statements. But in many cases, it can be hard for the… victim to really be able to quantify both what they are feeling at that moment and the types of psychological and emotional consequences they’ve experienced. But also … they may not know how long that may stay with them and what the long-term psychological and emotional consequences will be.

“So, in that context, you can think about whether information—anonymized stories—from other… victims of this type of crime, who are part of these groups, could be used to say, here is a very common type of harm, this is not an unusual victim experience for the individual.”

Molly also mentioned the possibility defense lawyers could object evidence like that, particular in the criminal context.

“I certainly think there could be room for challenge and objections from defence counsel about bringing in that type of… evidence, “she said.

“But in the same way that we use expert evidence to help explain what types of harms might occur from a psychological perspective, or what type of economic loss [there was] as a result of someone being the victim of a crime, this could supplement the factual evidence before the court and be relevant and helpful to the judge in an area where the judge may not have personal or legal knowledge.”

You can read the rest of Molly’s comments on The Lawyer’s Daily.

Molly and the rest of our team provide more privacy expertise on the relevant practice page.

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