Here comes the judge ! : Justice Himel on Farley and Raymond

30/09/2010 at 23:53 Leave a comment

by Cheryl Overs

Michael Goodyear has very kindly extracted quotes from the judge in the court case in Canada that struck down sex work laws.  It’s fun to see a judge agreeing with sex workers that what these people write is not  accurate or credible.  It  strikes me as an illustration of the fact that the place to examine  evidence is a court of law with a skilled judge drawing on a body of law about what is, and is not, admissible evidence.

I am tiring of the  demand for activists to  supply ‘evidence’ that sex work should not be illegal, “evidence’  that trafficking laws are destroying lives and health etc. Evidence to be judged by whom ? (who?)   Civil servants at the UN ? Gender specialists in international NGOs ?   People are very fond of saying  ‘where is the evidence’.  Justice Himel inspires me that our reply should be “Where is the judge ? ”

Here are Justice Himel’s comments on the non- evidence suppplied to her court by Farley and Raymond.

[352] I find that some of the evidence tendered on this application did not meet the standards set by Canadian courts for the admission of expert evidence. The parties did not challenge the admissibility o evidence tendered but asked the court to afford little weight to the
evidence of the other party.

[353] I found the evidence of Dr. Melissa Farley to be problematic. Although Dr. Farley has conducted a great deal of research on prostitution, her advocacy appears to have permeated her opinions. For example, Dr. Farley’s unqualified assertion in her affidavit that prostitution is inherently violent appears to contradict her own findings that prostitutes who work from indoor locations generally experience less violence.  Furthermore, in her affidavit, she failed to
qualify her opinion regarding the causal relationship between post-traumatic stress disorder and prostitution, namely that it could be caused by events unrelated to prostitution.

[354] Dr. Farley’s choice of language is at times inflammatory and detracts from her conclusions. For example, comments such as, “prostitution is to the community what incest is to the family,” and “just as pedophiles justify sexual assault of children….men who use prostitutes develop elaborate cognitive schemes to justify purchase and use of women” make her opinions less persuasive.

[355] Dr. Farley stated during cross-examination that some of her opinions on prostitution were formed prior to her research, including, “that prostitution is a terrible harm to women, that prostitution is abusive in its very nature, and that prostitution amounts to men paying a woman for the right to rape her.”

[356] Accordingly, for these reasons, I assign less weight to Dr. Farley’s evidence.

[357] Similarly, I find that Drs. Raymond and Poulin were more like advocates than experts offering independent opinions to the court. At times, they made bold, sweeping statements that were not reflected in their research. For example, some of Dr. Raymond’s statements on prostitutes were based on her research on trafficked women. As well,
during cross-examination, it was revealed that some of Dr. Poulin’s citations for his claim that the average age of recruitment into prostitution is 14 years old were misleading or incorrect. In his affidavit, Dr. Poulin suggested that there have been instances of serial killers targeting prostitutes who worked at indoor locations; however, his sources do not appear to support his assertion. I found it troubling that Dr. Poulin stated during cross-examination that it
is not important for scholars to present information that contradicts their own findings (or findings which they support).

You can find their affidavits at:
Michael Goodyear is Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Canada


Entry filed under: gender and sexuality, health, HIV and AIDS, human rights and law. Tags: , .

Sex work laws struck down by Canadian Court Decriminalisation is the starting point : what next for Canada?

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