Four criminal appeals, from across the country and spanning diverse areas of criminal law, will be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada this month.
The Belanger case from Quebec will be the first to be heard on February 12. This case raises the issue of objective mens rea in the charge of dangerous driving causing death. As discussed in previous postings, in recent decisions the SCC has increasingly shown favour with objective mens rea as a standard of liability in criminal law. The Belanger case will be of great interest to see if this trend continues.
Next to be heard on February 15 is the Blacklaws case from British Columbia, which raises the issue of severance of counts where there were two different complainants, both sex trade workers, but the circumstances of each incident involved similar facts. Although the majority of the BC Court of Appeal allowed the appeal against the refusal of the trial judge to sever the counts, the Chief Justice disagreed and found no error.
The Ontario case of Youvarajah will be heard on February 20. This case raises an interesting issue of whether an Agreed Statement of Facts signed and used as a basis of a guilty plea for one accused can then be admitted in the co-accused’s trial for the truth of its contents.
Finally, the Newfoundland Taylor case, to be heard on February 22, turns on the adverse inference a trial judge can draw when alibi evidence is not disclosed in a timely manner. In this case, the trial judge specifically rejected Taylor’s evidence at his sexual assault trial, where credibility was the sole issue, on the basis that his denial amounted to an alibi, which had never been previously disclosed to the police.
Significantly, all of these cases raise complex and novel issues in the area of criminal law without raising Charter issues. I will discuss each case in detail as the hearing dates draw near.