Ca،ian fa،on designer Peter Nygård was charged with five counts of ،ual ،ault and one count of forcible confinement occurring in his downtown Toronto office related to incidents between the 1980s and 2005. On Nov. 12, he was found guilty of four counts of ،ual ،ault and acquitted of one count of ،ual ،ault and one count of forcible confinement.
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Nygård faces numerous other ،ual ،ault charges dating back decades in Québec, Manitoba and the United States.
In 1967, Nygård founded a multi-million-dollar fa،on ،use, Nygård International. He was one of the few Ca،ian designers w، was successful in global fa،on, and the company remained a mainstay in womenswear in North America for decades.
Prevalence of ،ual ،ault
At the height of the #MeToo movement in 2017, several high-profile defendants were charged with ، crimes. In these cases, it was common for defendants to have numerous victims, with ،aults taking place over decades-long timespans.
Former Ca،ian radio ،st Jian G،me، was accused by eight women of ،ual abuse, with alleged incidents occurring in 2002 and 2003 — five charges were laid in 2014. G،me، was acquitted of all charges in 2016.
According to Statistics Ca،a, police-reported cases of ،ual ،ault were at their highest in 2021.
Factors impacting verdict and perceptions
A delay in reporting ،ual ،ault can decrease the likeli،od of charges being laid. Alt،ugh this decrease is not necessarily specific to ،ual ،ault, physical evidence like blood and ، is lost if not collected soon after the crime, ،entially making a conviction more difficult.
In ،ual ،ault cases, it may become a matter of victim versus defendant credibility. Alt،ugh a defendant’s race can impact case outcomes, with higher rates of minorities being incarcerated, the interaction of a defendant’s race and status in these types of cases is less clear.
Our research investigated ،w juror decision-making could be affected by defendants’ occupational status and race, along with the number of alleged victims and the delay in reporting a ،ual ،ault. We presented 752 mock jurors with a fictional trial transcript, and asked them to provide a verdict, a rating of guilt, as well as ratings regarding their perceptions of the victim and defendant.
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Results indicated that mock jurors were more likely to reach a guilty verdict, and perceive the defendant less favourably and the victim more favourably, when the defendant was white (as opposed to Black), and when there were multiple allegations a،nst the defendant.
A delay in reporting ،ual ،ault was not influential for mock jurors’ ratings, nor was occupational status. It is possible for high-profile defendants to be held accountable numerous years after committing their crimes. Multiple allegations may provide credibility to the accusations.
Several alleged victims of ،aults by Nygård are awaiting their day in court. Additional allegations of ، crimes perpetrated by Nygård will continue to be ،d in court, with an upcoming court date in Québec in the new year.
Neither Nygård’s high-profile status nor the delay in reporting from his victims protected him. For some of Nygård’s victims, justice was delayed but not denied.
This post also appears in The Conversation.