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She wanted to tell you about her sex assault. The court has finally let her

She wanted to tell you about her sex assault. The court has finally let her
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On Friday, the publication ban imposed without her knowledge on her identity as a sexual assault victim was finally lifted in Milton court following a two-week delay caused by the defence lawyer for the driving instructor who pleaded guilty to assaulting her.

Moments later, Andrews did what she had been waiting 37 days to do: she had written as a “love letter” to other survivors.

“The only words that matter today are mine,” Andrews, 26, said in her submissions to the court. “I am the victim, I don’t need protection, the defence counsel has no standing, I have never wanted this publication ban, and I demand attention to leverage my experience and fix the system for the others who bravely come after me. So much good will come out of this pain and trust me when I say that I’ve got big plans.”

Among those plans, she wants to advocate for changes to the Criminal Code to make it easier for sexual assault survivors to lift publication bans and to ensure victims are not penalized for violating publication bans on their own identities.

She is also calling for clear, multilingual guidance to be provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General or the federal Ministry of Justice to victims at the start of the legal process about what such a publication ban covers, how it is imposed and how it can be lifted. She has already been part of the development of soon-to-be released guide with the Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education at Ryerson University.

“I think the No. 1 concern here for everyone should be that victims are not victimized by our processes,” Andrews said after the court hearing. “It should be recognized by everyone who has the power to influence a change like this that a change needs to happen.”

Andrews said she had no idea that a publication ban on her identity was requested by the Crown at the start of the criminal case against her former driving instructor Zia Shah last year.

The publication ban is available to sexual assault complainants to encourage victims to report sexual violence to the police without fear of stigma. The publication ban is mandatory upon request, however Andrews said she was never asked if she wanted her identity to be protected.

She said she first learned there was a publication ban on her identity on April 7, when Shah pleaded guilty to assault, admitting to groping Andrews when she was 18, and was sentenced to probation. She had planned to publicly share her victim impact statement that day, but when she tried to have the publication ban lifted at the end of the court hearing, the judge told her there was nothing that could be done because the case was over.

A week later Andrews still didn’t know whether she had to file a court application herself or hire a lawyer to get the publication ban lifted, or whether the Crown would help her, Andrews told the Star last month .

Meanwhile, she was worried about what would happen if she somehow breached the publication ban after seeing stories about a Waterloo-based woman who was fined $2,000 for emailing an unredacted transcript of the decision in her case to a small group of supporters. That case is under appeal.

After the Star’s story ran, the Crown’s office contacted Andrews and Crown prosecutor Kelli Frew filed an application requesting that the publication ban be lifted.

The Crown notified Shah’s lawyer Norm Williams about the application as a courtesy, Frew told the court in an appearance on April 30, but Williams told her he intended to oppose the publication ban being lifted.

Williams wanted the hearing to be adjourned so he could make written submissions on why he should have standing to oppose the lifting of the publication ban on Andrews’ identity.

Ramon Petgrave, a lawyer who appeared in court for Williams that day, suggested the hearing be adjourned until June.

Both the Crown and the scheduling judge said that was far too long — with the judge noting there he was unsure what legal basis Williams had to seek standing on the application. The Crown also opposed Williams having standing to make submissions.
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