Skip to main content

Former Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard appeals his rape conviction, while victim braces for the possibility of a new trial

Share

The case of convicted rapist and former Canadian pop singer Jacob Hoggard will be back in court today as the 40-year-old appeals his guilty verdict on a violent sexual assault.

Arguments will be heard Wednesday in front of a panel of three judges at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

It has been two years and 13 days since a jury found Hoggard guilty of sexually assaulting an Ottawa woman in 2016 and causing her bodily harm.

Hoggard is appealing his conviction as he waits for trial on another sexual assault allegation. He’s accused of assaulting a Kirkland Lake, Ont., woman the same year he assaulted the Ottawa woman.

Yet to spend a day in prison

The former Hedley frontman has yet to spend a full day in jail, despite being sentenced by a judge to a five-year prison term.

Hoggard’s victim, now 31, says she will try to watch the proceedings over Zoom. Despite being "nervous" about the outcome, she has decided not to testify again if Hoggard wins his appeal and the panel of judges orders a new trial.

"I have to be able to walk away. I have to be OK with it. I don’t want to prolong it. It’s already been eight years of my life," she said in an interview with CTV News.

The Ottawa woman first told her story publicly to this reporter in 2018. But she was initially reluctant to report the incident to police, until Hoggard was charged with assaulting a teenage girl who was 15 years old when she first met the singer.

"The only reason I came forward was so she wouldn’t be alone."

She says she was "traumatized" by the trial. The defence presented an audio recording of a phone conversation Hoggard had surreptitiously taped. The recording wasn’t disclosed prior to the trial, but the judge allowed it to be heard by the jury as evidence.

"I didn’t know the phone call existed. I heard it (in private), and then 20 minutes later, I heard it in front of a room full of strangers."

Under intense questioning by the defence, she broke down several times on the witness stand. She says she will not go through that again, even if it means Hoggard walks away free.

"For me, 12 members of his peers found him guilty in a court. Ten of them were men. I don’t need another set of people to tell me what he did."

'Shattered beyond recognition'

During the month-long trial in 2022, the Ottawa woman testified that the she feared for her life when Hoggard confined her inside a Toronto hotel room, where he choked, spat on and repeatedly raped her in November 2016. The jury convicted Hoggard in her case, but found him not guilty in a similar case that was tried at the same time involving a teenage girl.

Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, the Ottawa woman has a back-up plan to hold Hoggard accountable by suing the disgraced singer for $2.8 million.

In her victim impact statement, the woman, who was a 24-year-old Algonquin College student at the time of the assault, said that her life as she knew it was "stolen" from her and "shattered beyond recognition."

"He has to live with what he did even if he doesn’t go to jail. I won’t let him hold anymore power over me," the woman said on the afternoon before Hoggard’s appeal was heard.

Did the trial judge make mistakes?

On Oct. 20, 2022, Ontario Superior Court Justice Gilian Roberts ordered Hoggard to be taken into custody to begin serving his five-year sentence. The convicted rapist was put in handcuffs and taken to a Toronto remand centre, only to be released a few hours later after being granted bail pending appeal. While waiting for his appeal, Hoggard has been working in the Vancouver area as a carpenter.

His legal team is appealing his conviction on the grounds that the trial judge made an error by allowing "irrelevant testimony" from the crown’s expert witness.

Dr. Lori Haskell, a clinical psychologist, was the first witness of the trial and explained to the jury how people have different "neurobiological" responses to trauma such as fight, flight and freeze reactions.

In written arguments filed with the Ontario Court Appeal, Hoggard’s lawyer argued Haskell’s testimony was prejudicial and should not have been allowed.

"The relevance of this evidence, however, assumed the existence of the very traumatic events at issue in the trial — namely, the alleged sexual assaults. Unless the jury assumed Hoggard was guilty, Dr. Haskell’s evidence was irrelevant. It should never have been admitted," wrote Hoggard’s lawyers.

Prosecutors say the full context of the trial reveals "no error on the part of the Crown or the trial judge," and shows that Hoggard’s lawyers had ample opportunity to object but chose not to.

The Crown argues that the evidence presented by the psychologist was essential to a case where there are misconceptions about how victims behave following a sexual assault.

In the factum, prosecutors argue that legal developments created to prevent the credibility of complainants from being discounted based on myths and stereotypes do not give victims the advantage in court.

But rather, the Crown argues that evidence like Haskell’s expertise helps to ensure that the "truth-seeking function of the trial is not distorted."

Delaying closure

Isabel Grant, a professor who teaches sexual assault law at the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia, says a high threshold needs to be met for defence lawyers to win the appeal.

"Even if an appellate court were to conclude that the judge made a mistake in law, that will not necessarily lead to a new trial where that mistake was harmless or where the evidence against the accused was overwhelming," Grant said in an email to CTV News.

The appeal is happening nearly eight years after the Ottawa woman was attacked in the hotel room, and six years after she reported the assault to Toronto police.

Bailey Reid, a sexual violence prevention advisor and CEO of consultancy agency The Spark Strategy, says the Hoggard appeal is an example of how difficult it is for survivors to find justice through the courts because they have so little control over its processes.

The accused can choose a trial by judge or jury. A defendant with enough financial resources can appeal and prolong the process.

"So often the messaging is that you should report to police. (Survivors) expect to find justice through these systems — but at the end of the day they can’t heal you."

Reid says if survivors want perpetrators to be "punished," the only way to do that is to engage in the criminal justice system. But Reid says survivors need to be prepared for a verdict that "may not affirm" their trauma.

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

Local Spotlight

Video shows B.C. grizzly basking in clawfoot tub

A donated clawfoot bathtub has become the preferred lounging spot for a pair of B.C. grizzly bears, who have been taking turns relaxing and reclining in it – with minimal sibling squabbling – for the past year.

Stay Connected