The criminal trial of former Afghanistan hostage Joshua Boyle will turn on the credibility of his estranged wife, Caitlan Coleman, who was the victim of his “physical, sexual and emotional abuse,” a Crown attorney told an Ottawa courtroom Monday.
Crown attorney Meaghan Cunningham said she expects Boyle’s defence team will vigorously challenge Coleman’s credibility and reliability during the course of the trial, and may suggest that she consented to his abuse and domination.
Coleman, she said, is the named victim in 17 of the 19 counts before the court; those charges include assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinement.
Cunningham told Ontario Court Justice Peter Doody that it will be up to him to decide whether Coleman’s story “accords with common sense and human experience.” But the problem, she noted, is that Coleman’s experience is so unusual — unlike anything experienced by those in the courtroom — that it may be difficult to assess.
As a result, she told Doody, “you may conclude some parts of her account don’t make sense.” But Cunningham argued that Coleman’s story and her role in it fall within the range of normal behaviour for victims of trauma.
“It will still be for your honour to decide if Ms. Coleman is a truthful witness,” she told the judge.
Cunningham revealed that Coleman will testify for three days, starting Wednesday.
The case Monday began with a surprise as Coleman’s lawyer, Ian Carter, told court his client wanted to lift the publication ban that has protected her name since charges were laid in the case in late-December 2017.
The court granted Coleman’s request. A second publication ban remains in place on the second alleged victim in the case.
During the March 25 court hearing, Boyle, dressed in a dark blue suit, sat in the body of the court, flanked by his parents.
He has pleaded not guilty to all 19 counts before the court.
In her opening statement, Cunningham said the trial will hear a 911 phone recording of Boyle from the night of Dec. 30, 2017, along with testimony from two officers who responded to that emergency call.
It will also hear from a neighbour who lived next door to Boyle and Coleman, and from a Global Affairs Canada official, Janice Unger, who accompanied the couple on a return flight from Afghanistan, after they were freed from five years of captivity.
Coleman’s mother and two sisters are also expected to testify during two weeks of Crown evidence.
Boyle and his wife were taken hostage in 2012 by a Taliban-linked group while on a backpacking trip to Afghanistan. They were freed by Pakistani forces in October 2017 and met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after their return to Canada.
By Andrew Duffy
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019