Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Caitlan Coleman leaves court in Ottawa on, March 27, 2019.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Caitlan Coleman says she gave interviews to media outlets in the middle of her estranged husband’s trial for allegedly assaulting her because she wanted to provide hope to other women.

Under questioning at the proceedings Thursday against her spouse Joshua Boyle, Coleman said she felt that “speaking out” would create awareness about domestic violence and give women the courage to leave abusive relationships.

Boyle’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, raised concerns earlier this month about the appropriateness of the interviews, prompting fresh procedural questions in a case that has already had its share of legal quandaries.

Boyle, 35, has pleaded not guilty in Ontario court to offences against Coleman, 33, including assault, sexual assault and unlawful confinement.

The offences are alleged to have occurred in late 2017 after the couple returned to Canada following five years as captives of Taliban-linked extremists who seized them during a backpacking trip to Asia.

The trial was supposed to conclude weeks ago, but a dispute over what evidence about the couple’s sexual history could be entered in court delayed proceedings.

During the break, Coleman gave interviews in April and May to ABC News, CBC News and the Washington Post.

When proceedings resumed this month, Greenspon noted Coleman had been ordered by Judge Peter Doody not to discuss her testimony with witnesses, or potential ones, until completion of the trial.

Coleman said that she understood from her criminal and family-law counsel that it was acceptable to discuss her tempestuous relationship with Boyle as long as she didn’t talk about the alleged acts at the centre of the trial.

It is a long-held legal principle that discussions between a lawyer and client are confidential, a concept known as solicitor-client privilege.

But Coleman’s remarks led Doody to advise her there was now a question as to whether she waived her solicitor-client privilege when she testified that it was her understanding from her lawyers that she could discuss her relationship with Boyle in media interviews.

Greenspon said he didn’t believe Coleman actually was told by her lawyers that it would be OK to do the interviews. “It would be my submission that no competent lawyer would provide that advice to Ms. Coleman,” he told the court earlier this month.

Doody said the question of what legal advice Coleman received about the media interviews was relevant to the case because it goes to her credibility.

In a July 9 ruling, Doody said Coleman’s comments did not amount to a waiver of solicitor-client privilege. That means questions about what her lawyers told her are off-limits. But Doody said it did not preclude other queries about why she gave the interviews.

During Thursday’s hearing, Crown attorney Meaghan Cunningham asked Coleman to help the court understand why she spoke to reporters.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not to speak to the media,” said Coleman, testifying via video link.

Ultimately, Coleman said, she decided that doing the interviews could be helpful to women suffering domestic abuse.

The Crown wrapped up its case Thursday. But proceedings are expected to continue into late summer or even the fall as the defence makes its arguments.

Doody is also hearing submissions from both sides about whether previous testimony from a social worker, who appeared as an expert witness, should be allowed into evidence.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe