Recent Decisions

20,000 Watch Livestream of Judgment as Off-Duty Officer is Found Guilty of Assault

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week, an unprecedented event took place when more than 20,000 people watched Justice Joe Di Luca read his 62 page ruling for four hours in an online livestream. 

Justice Di Luca found off-duty Toronto police Constable Michael Theriault (“Michael”) guilty of assaulting Dafonte Miller (“Miller”).  Michael was acquitted of the charges of obstruction of justice and his brother, Christian Theriault (“Christian”), was acquitted of all charges of aggravated assault and obstruction of justice.

PUBLIC INTEREST DEMANDS LIVESTREAM OF JUDGE’S DECISION

In his judgment, Justice Di Luca recognized the immense public interest that the case before him generated given the issues of racism and police accountability.  However, he stated that his duty was not to “conduct a public inquiry into matters involving race and policing”, his responsibility was to decide “whether the Crown has proven the offences charged beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence that was presented in court”.

The fact that so many people were watching the decision streaming live demonstrates that the public wants to have access to the court process and see justice in action.  The decision by Justice Di Luca to livestream his decision also shows the court’s dedication to legitimacy and authenticity.

Justice Di Luca stated in his decision:

This case has attracted significant public and media interest.  This interest is welcome as the openness of the court process is one of its core defining principles.  It is also welcome because public and media interest fosters legitimate debate, criticism and change, all of which are essential features of a functioning modern democracy.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The depiction of the events that occurred in the early morning hours of December 28, 2016 were incompatible between Miller and the Theriault brothers.

According to Miller, he was walking down the sidewalk with friends when he was approached and questioned by the Theriault brothers.  Miller and his friends ran, but he was eventually caught and viciously beaten.  Michael allegedly used a metal pipe and Christian used his hands and feet.  Miller was struck in the eye with the metal pipe and suffered serious injuries to the bones around his face, his wrist was broken, he lost vision in his left eye and had difficulty seeing out of his right eye.  As a result of this incident, Miller underwent two surgeries and had to have his damaged eyeball removed and fitted for a prosthesis.

According to the Theriault brothers, they were inside the garage at their parents’ home when they heard a commotion outside.  They opened the garage to find two males inside one of their vehicles.  The individuals ran in different directions.  The brothers chased Miller, with the intention of arresting him and waiting for police to arrive.  The cornered him in between two houses at which time Miller produced a metal pipe and began swinging it.  Christian alleges that he was hit in the head and a struggle ensued.  Michael proceeded to punch Miller multiple times in the face, likely causing Miller’s eye injury.  Michael denies hitting Miller with the metal pipe.  The Theriault brothers contend that they used reasonable force in their attempt to arrest Miller and acted in self-defence when Miller used the metal pipe as a weapon.

Miller was arrested at the scene and charges were laid, including theft under $5,000 and assault with a weapon.  In the end, these charges were withdrawn by the Crown.

The Special Investigations Unit investigated the incident and the Theriault brothers were jointly charged with aggravated assault and separately charged with attempting to obstruct justice given their dishonesty with the Durham Regional Police Service.

JUSTICE DI LUCA’S DECISION AT TRIAL

Justice Di Luca specifically acknowledged that there were credibility issues with multiple witnesses and therefore he could not conclusively determine a number of important facts in this case.  Specifically, he could not positively determine where the metal pipe came from or who first handled it.

Justice Di Luca found that Miller and his friends were stealing items from cars and that Michael’s initial plan was “likely not to arrest Mr. Miller, but rather to capture him and assault him”.  Michael never identified himself as a police officer or mentioned an arrest during the chase or the fight.  Justice Di Luca stated:

To be blunt, I would have expected the first thing out of Michael Theriault’s mouth as he was chasing Mr. Miller while wearing only socks would have been “Stop…you are under arrest…I’m a police officer,” or words to that effect.

Although it was not clear as to the origin of the metal pipe, Justice Di Luca stated:

Even assuming that the pipe was first introduced by Mr. Miller, it was quickly removed from him and the incident became one-sided, with Mr. Miller essentially being beaten by Michael and Christian Theriault.

Justice Di Luca was “left with reasonable doubt” that Michael was acting in self-defence.  When Miller headed towards the door of the nearby home to seek assistance and was badly injured, he was essentially in retreat.  Justice Di Luca stated:

The already razor thin self-defence justification evaporates at this stage.

Justice Di Luca was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that when Michael struck Miller with the pipe he was not acting in self-defence or in the course of an arrest, and therefore committed an unlawful assault.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Michael is currently suspended from the Toronto Police Service and has been since July 2017.  He will continue to remain out on bail until his sentencing hearing. 

A professional standards investigation is underway on behalf of the Toronto Police Service with respect to the events that transpired and the Office of the Independent Police Review Director is also continuing to investigate this incident.

We will provide additional information regarding any developments as they take place in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with an assault or related offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Supreme Court of Canada Clarifies Entrapment by Police in Dial-a-Dope Cases

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Canada’s highest court recently released its written decision in a pair of related cases regarding the issue of entrapment.  Javid Ahmad (“Ahmad”) and Landon Williams (“Williams”) were each charged with drug offences after police purchased cocaine from them. 

The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that police must form a reasonable suspicion that the individual on the phone is dealing drugs before asking to buy drugs.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Toronto police responded to tips to investigate alleged dial-a-dope schemes.  This type of scheme involves a seller communicating with their customers over cell phones and arranging to purchase drugs at an agreed upon location.  In each case, officers called a particular phone number and following a brief conversation requested drugs and arranged a meeting spot to complete the transaction. 

Ahmad and Williams were each arrested and charged with drug-related offences.  Both accused argued at trial that their proceedings should be stayed on the basis of entrapment.

In the case of Ahmad, the police received a tip that “Romeo” was selling drugs over the phone.  Following a short conversation with “Romeo”, a deal was struck to sell the officer cocaine and a location was agreed upon.  The officer met “Romeo” (Ahmad) in person to sell him the cocaine, at which time he was arrested and searched.  At Ahmad’s trial, he was convicted and the judge concluded that he was not entrapped as police had not offered him an opportunity to traffic drugs until their tip had been corroborated during the course of the phone conversation. 

In the case of Williams, police received a tip that “Jay” was selling cocaine.  The officer called “Jay” and arranged a meeting time and place to buy crack cocaine.  The drug deal took place.  Eleven days later, another drug deal was arranged.  A month later, the police arrested Williams.  At Williams’ trial, the judge concluded that he was entrapped because the officer who contacted him provided him with the option to sell drugs before forming a reasonable suspicion that he was drug trafficking.  Thus resulting in a stay of the drug-related charges.

Both Ahmad’s and Williams’ cases were heard together on appeal.  The majority of the Court of Appeal held that where reasonable suspicion relates to the phone number, the police can provide opportunities to commit a crime even if there is no reasonable suspicion about the person who answers the phone.  Therefore, at their appeals both Ahmad and Williams were convicted of drug offences.

WHAT IS ENTRAPMENT?

Entrapment takes place when the police encourage an individual to commit a crime or provide an individual with the opportunity to commit a crime without having a reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in that particular criminal activity. 

The Supreme Court of Canada set out two categories for the defence of entrapment in the case of R. v. Mack

  1. The police may present an opportunity to commit a crime only without acting upon a reasonable suspicion that either a specific person is engaged in criminal activity or people are carrying out criminal activity at a specific location;
  2. The police, while having a reasonable suspicion, go beyond providing an opportunity and induce the commission of an offence.

WHAT DID THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA DECIDE?

On appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, both Ahmad and Williams argued that the police did not have the required reasonable suspicion that either individual was involved in criminal activity before asking them over the phone to buy drugs.

The majority of the judges of the Supreme Court concluded that Ahmad was not entrapped and that Williams was entrapped by the police.

The court held that police can ask a person during a telephone conversation to commit a crime, but only if there is already reasonable suspicion that the person is involved in criminal activity.  The reasonable suspicion must relate to the specific person committing a crime or a crime occurring in a specific location.  Given the digital world that we live in, a specific location can include a phone number.  Thus, police can have a reasonable suspicion that the phone number is being used for the crime before asking the person who answers the phone to commit a crime.  The court was concerned about the risks to privacy of allowing the location to be expanded to virtual spaces and stated:

…to properly protect these interests, police must have reasonable suspicion over an individual or a well-defined virtual space, like a phone number, before providing an opportunity to commit a crime.

Although in both cases, the police didn’t have reasonable suspicion before calling the phone numbers, the court concluded that the police became reasonably suspicious in Ahmad’s case to suspect he was selling drugs while talking with him on the phone and before asking to buy drugs from him.  In Williams case, the police asked to buy drugs from him prior to having a reasonable suspicion that he was selling drugs during their phone conversation. 

The majority of the court stated:

As state actors, police must respect the rights and freedoms of all Canadians and be accountable to the public they serve and protect. …

At the same time, police require various investigative techniques to enforce the criminal law.  While giving wide latitude to police to investigate crime in the public interest, the law also imposes constraints on certain police methods.

Based upon the specific circumstances in each case, Ahmad’s conviction was upheld and the stay of proceedings for Williams was reinstated.

If you have been charged with a drug-related offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise. 

Supreme Court of Canada Rules Bail Conditions Must Be Knowingly Violated

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In its unanimous decision last week, the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial for Chaycen Michael Zora (“Zora”), who had been convicted of breaching his bail conditions. 

The highest court in Canada concluded that an individual accused of breaching his/her bail conditions must knowingly or recklessly violate those conditions in order to be found guilty of breaching them.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Zora was charged with several drug offences in British Columbia.  He was released on bail and required to abide by twelve conditions.  These conditions included that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour, report to his bail supervisor, not possess any non-prescribed controlled substances, not possess or have a cell phone, obey a curfew and be present at his front door within five minutes if and when the police or bail supervisor appeared to check on him, amongst other conditions. 

In October 2015, police rang Zora’s doorbell on two occasions and he did not answer.  He was therefore charged with two counts of breaching his curfew and two counts of failing to meet the condition of responding to police at his home during a curfew check.

At his trial, Zora was acquitted of charges of breaching curfew as it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Zora had been outside of his home after curfew.  However, Zora was fined $920 and found guilty of two counts of failing to appear at the door in response to curfew compliance checks.

Zora argued that he did not hear the doorbell as it was difficult to hear it from where he slept.  Furthermore, he testified that he was undergoing methadone treatment, which made him very tired, and was in the process of withdrawal from his heroin addiction.

Zora also testified that he changed where he slept in his home and set up an audio-visual system at his front door to help alert him to further police checks, which ensured that he was complying with his conditions of bail. 

Zora unsuccessfully appealed the trial judge’s decision.  He then proceeded to take his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada

THE DECISION OF THE SUPREME COURT

Zora appeals his conviction for failing to comply with his bail conditions by not answering the door when police appeared at his residence to ensure that he was complying with his bail conditions.  In failing to do so, Zora had committed the actus reus of the crime (the physical act of the crime).

The Supreme Court of Canada was asked to determine whether Zora had committed the mental element, also known as the mens rea, of the crime, which also must be present, in order to secure a conviction under section 145(3) of the Criminal Code.

It is a criminal offence, under section 145(3) of the Criminal Code, to breach bail.  This crime carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison.  Therefore, an accused may be subject to imprisonment for breaching conditions of their bail even if he/she is not found guilty of any of the original charges. 

In writing on behalf of the Supreme Court, Justice Martin explained what was required to satisfy the mental element of the crime:

I conclude that the Crown is required to prove subjective mens rea and no lesser form of fault will suffice.  Under s.145(3), the Crown must establish that the accused committed the breach knowingly or recklessly.  Nothing in the text or context of s. 145(3) displaces the presumption that Parliament intended to require a subjective mens rea. 

…The realities of the bail system further support Parliament’s intention to require subjective fault to ensure that the individual characteristics of the accused are considered throughout the bail process.

…Not only is this conclusion consistent with the presumption of subjective fault for crimes like s. 145(3), it is supported by its place and purpose in the overall bail system, the serious consequences which flow from its breach, and how the consideration of individual circumstances is the proper focus both for setting conditions and determining the mental element for their breach.

The Supreme Court held that subjective mens rea can be established when the Crown has proven:

  1. The accused had knowledge of the conditions of the bail order, or they were willfully blind to those conditions; and
  2. The accused knowingly (or were willfully blind to the circumstances) failed to act according to their bail conditions despite the knowledge of them; or
  3. The accused recklessly failed to act in accordance with their bail conditions (i.e. perceived an unjustified risk that their conduct would fail to comply with their bail conditions).

In conclusion, the Supreme Court held that subjective fault is required for a conviction under s. 145(3) of the Criminal Code.  The court found that the lower courts erred in law by applying an objective rather than a subjective standard of fault.  The Supreme Court allowed Zora’s appeal, quashed his convictions and ordered a new trial on the two counts of failing to appear at his door. 

If you have been charged with a bail related offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Appeal Court Expunges the Defence of Self-Induced Intoxication

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week, amidst great controversy, the Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision in the cases of R. v. Sullivan and R. v. Chan regarding the application of the defence of self-induced intoxication. 

This significant decision declared that section 33.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”) is unconstitutional and of no force or effect.

SECTION 33.1 OF THE CRIMINAL CODE

Section 33.1 of the CC established that if an accused caused his/her own intoxication and commits a violent offence, he/she cannot claim that he/she was too intoxicated to be found guilty of even general intent offences (i.e. assault and sexual assault).  This applies even if he/she was intoxicated to the point of automatism (the performance of an action unconsciously or involuntarily), even if his/her acts were involuntary or he/she lacked the mental state to commit the violent act.

In its latest decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal determined that this law breached “virtually all the criminal law principles that the law relies upon to protect the morally innocent, including the venerable presumption of innocence”.

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE SULLIVAN CASE?

In the case of David Sullivan, the accused over-consumed prescription medication in an attempt to take his own life.  The medication left him in a state of extreme psychosis.  During the psychotic episode, he believed he had captured an alien and proceeded to stab his mother.

At trial, Sullivan was found guilty of the violent offence despite Sullivan’s contention that his intoxication was involuntary as it resulted from a suicide attempt. 

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CHAN CASE?

Thomas Chan, a high school student, stabbed and killed his father and severely injured his father’s partner during a psychotic episode after consuming magic mushrooms.  Chan believed he was a deity and that his father was the devil. 

At trial, Chan also attempted to rely upon the defence of non-mental disorder automatism.  Given section 33.1, which prohibits the use of automatism as a defence in cases of violence when an accused’s intoxication was self-inflicted, this defence failed and Chan was convicted.

THE COURT OF APPEAL’S DECISION REGARDING SECTION 33.1 OF THE CRIMINAL CODE

The Court of Appeal found that section 33.1 of the CC violated the following sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

  1. The right to life, liberty and security of the person (section 7); and
  2. The right to the presumption of innocence (section 11(d)).

Under Canadian law, if a law violates a Charter right, in certain circumstances it can be justified by the Crown and upheld despite the violations.  In this case, the Appeal Court could not find benefits to the law, and instead found that the law was contrary to the principles of fundamental justice.

In its decision, the Court of Appeal wrote:

Put simply, the deleterious effects of s.33.1 include the contravention of virtually all the criminal law principles that the law relies upon to protect the morally innocent, including the venerable presumption of innocence. …

With very little true gain, Parliament has attempted to cast aside the bedrock of moral fault.

The Court of Appeal held that a person must act voluntarily to commit a crime.  Although lawmakers attempted to help victims attain justice with the introduction of section 33.1 of the CC, the law in actuality violated an accused’s rights by making them responsible for violence they had no control over.  Justices David Paciocco and David Watt wrote:

As for recognizing and promoting the equality, security and dignity of crime victims, it is obvious that those few victims who may see their offenders acquitted without s.33.1 will be poorly served.  They are victims, whether their attacked willed or intended the attack.  However, to convict an attacker of offences for which they do not bear the moral fault required by the Charter to void this outcome, is to replace on injustice for another, and at an intolerable cost to the core principles that animate criminal liability.

The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Chan as he was only convicted of offences that included an element of assault and those convictions depended upon section 33.1.  On the other hand, the Court of Appeal acquitted Sullivan of all of his charges.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The Crown prosecutor has advised that it will be seeking leave to appeal these decisions to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund has strongly expressed its frustration over this Court of Appeal decision and believes that this decision sends a message “that men can avoid accountability for their acts of violence against women and children through intoxication”.

However, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association has expressed that the concern that the floodgates have been opened to men arguing the defence of intoxication are unwarranted.  An accused must still prove that he/she was in a state of automatism, not merely drunk.

Cara Zwibel, Director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, stated:

This is a rarely used provision.  It’s not this widespread, systemic concern.

We will continue to follow the law as it evolves in response to the recent Ontario Court of Appeal decisions and will report any developments in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges that have been laid against you or your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1047.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting their client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.

Supreme Court Finds Driver Guilty as Risks are Reasonably Foreseeable When Driving Three Times the Speed Limit

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Earlier this spring, the Supreme Court of Canada determined that a reasonable person should foresee the risk of excessive speeding towards a major intersection and that this behaviour can be a departure from the reasonable standard of care required of drivers in Canada.

The highest court in Canada found that the trial judge in the case of R. v. Chung made two errors of law in a case of dangerous driving causing death.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On November 14, 2015, Ken Chung (“Chung”) drove his vehicle almost three times the speed limit towards a major intersection in a mixed residential-commercial area in Vancouver.  Chung crashed into a left turning vehicle, resulting in the death of the driver at the scene of the accident. 

A dashboard camera video caught 4.9 seconds of the accident showing Chung passing one car on the right and accelerating from 50 km/h to 140km/h before entering the intersection.  Chung was observed almost hitting a Toyota that was making a right turn in front of him and then colliding with the victim’s vehicle at a speed of 119 km/h.

The trial judge concluded that Chung’s speeding through the intersection was objectively dangerous to the public and fulfilled the actus reus (the physical act of the crime) of dangerous driving.  However, there was reasonable doubt as to whether Chung’s conduct met the mens rea (the intention, knowledge or recklessness of the accused) requirement for the crime of dangerous driving.  The test for mens rea in driving cases refers to a marked departure from the standard of care of a reasonable person in similar circumstances.  The trial judge held that the momentariness of Chung’s speeding did not demonstrate criminal fault.

At his trial, Chung was acquitted of dangerous driving causing death under section 249(4) of the Criminal Code (this section has been repealed and replaced with section 320.13(3) of the Criminal Code).  This crime requires two components:

  1. The prohibited conduct:  Operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner resulting in death; and
  2. The required degree of fault:  A marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised while driving in the circumstances when the incident occurred.

On appeal, it was found that the trial judge had erred in law by finding that Chung had lacked the mens rea of the driving offence, and in finding that the momentary acceleration in speed could not satisfy the mens rea component of the crime  Therefore, the acquittal was overturned and a dangerous driving conviction was entered.

Chung appealed the conviction and took his case to the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”).

THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA DECISION

The SCC found that the trial judge made two errors of law by applying the wrong legal principle and by failing to apply the correct legal test by not assessing what a reasonable person would have foreseen and done in the circumstances.

Justice Sheilah Martin, writing for the majority of the SCC, found that Chung’s actions were not comparable to momentary mistakes that a reasonable driver may make.  She wrote:

A reasonable person would have foreseen that rapidly accelerating towards a major intersection at a high speed creates a very real risk of a collision occurring within seconds.  This is what actually occurred in Mr. Chung’s case.  Risky conduct at excessive speeds foreseeably can result in immediate consequences. 

… A reasonable person understands that driving is an inherently risky activity.  It is made all the more risky the faster we drive, the harder we accelerate, and the more aggressively we navigate traffic.  Although even careful driving can result in tragic consequences, some conduct is so dangerous that it deserves criminal sanctions.

The SCC concluded that the test for mens rea is whether a reasonable person would have foreseen the immediate risk of travelling almost three times the speed limit towards a major intersection.  Therefore, it held that Chung’s driving was a “marked departure from the norm”.

Justice Martin warned that there may be cases where excessive speed may not be a discrepancy from the standard of care.  She explained:

Only when there has been an active engagement with the full picture of what occurred can the trial judge determine whether the accused’s conduct was a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonable and prudent driver.

The SCC dismissed the appeal and restored Chung’s conviction.

If you have been charged with a driving related offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Latest News Regarding Inmates and the COVID-19 Crisis

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week, the Corrections Service of Canada (“CSC”) confirmed that an inmate at British Columbia’s Mission Institution, a medium security federal prison, died in hospital as a result of complications related to COVID-19.

According to reports, there are 54 inmates and 8 corrections officers at Mission Institution that have tested positive for COVID-19.  The inmate in question, whose name has been withheld from the media, died at Abbotsford Regional Hospital where a mobile medical unit has been installed to treat prisoners infected with the virus.

Throughout Canada, a total of 145 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at federal prisons.  The hardest hit has been Mission Institution and Joliette Institution in Quebec.  At Joliette, 48 inmates and 34 correctional officers have tested positive for the virus.

THE GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19 IN PRISONS

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has announced that the government continues to consider measures to keep inmates, staff and communities safe and healthy during the pandemic.

The CSC has reported that masks have been issued to both inmates and corrections officers, and that correctional officers are not permitted to move between prisons.

The CSC has also taken steps to temporarily suspend inmate visits, temporary absences, work releases, institution transfers, prison programs and activities in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

According to a statement by Minister Blair:

Our greatest responsibility is keeping Canadians safe – that includes those in our correctional institutions.  We know the unique vulnerabilities facing correctional institutions during this public-health crisis.  The situation around COVID-19 is both challenging and rapidly evolving, and our response will continue to adapt as required to prevent further tragic loss of life.

CANADA’S DEFENCE LAWYERS URGE THE GOVERNMENT TO DEPOPULATE PRISONS

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association advocates for a reduction in the number of inmates in Canada’s prisons in the interest of public safety. The Association has distributed to its 1,600 members an affidavit by physician and epidemiologist Dr. Aaron Orkin.  According to Dr. Orkin, an outbreak in prison or jail would be similar to the spread of the virus on cruise ships or in long-term care facilities.  These types of facilities all involve close quarters making it nearly impossible to contain the virus from spreading.   Dr. Orkin anticipates that the virus will make its way into every correctional facility in Canada.

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association does not believe that every inmate is an appropriate candidate for release.  According to John Hale, a criminal defence lawyer and the vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association:

Obviously there are people in the jails who are dangerous and need to be kept in to protect the community, but there are a lot of people in jail who are not dangerous who could be either serving a sentence or awaiting trial outside of jail.

FIRST INMATE WITH SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUES RELEASED FROM FEDERAL PRISON

On April 2, 2020, an application for an unescorted temporary absence was submitted on behalf of 53-year-old Derrick Snow (“Snow”), who is serving a sentence at Ontario’s Bath Institution for breaking-and-entering and theft.  Snow suffers from diabetes, pulmonary disease and has recently been diagnosed with malignant sarcoma.  Snow argued that his underlying medical conditions put him at greater risk of becoming infecting with the virus and die.

The CSC granted Snow permission to live with his sister in London, Ontario.  He will receive treatment for cancer and other ailments until his July release date.  The CSC approved Snow’s request as he did not have a violent criminal history and held that the supervision plan was appropriate and included special conditions, including an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet and a curfew.  Furthermore, the CSC decision emphasized that it was approving Snow’s request despite taking “extraordinary measures” to prevent the spread of the virus in federal prisons. 

ONTARIO HAS DRASTICALLY REDUCED ITS PRISON POPULATION

Offenders who have been convicted of a crime and are sentenced to jail of two years less a day serve their sentences in provincial institutions.  In Ontario, provincial jails typically hold between 8,000 to 9,000 inmates. 

Both Ontario and the Northwest Territories have taken extreme measures to reduce their prison populations by 25%.  To date, nearly 2,500 inmates have been released from Ontario’s prisons, making the inmate population at its lowest level since 1990.

Ontario began implementing measures to limit the spread of the deadly virus in mid-March, including reducing the number of inmates in custody.  Inmates are being carefully assessed to ensure that they are at low risk to offend.  Those that have been convicted of serious violent crimes will not be considered for early release.

ONTARIO CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE IN BRAMPTON TEMPORARILY CLOSES

Earlier this week, the Ministry of the Solicitor General confirmed that 60 inmates and eight staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Ontario Correctional Institute in Brampton. 

This facility will temporarily close and 140 inmates will be moved to the Toronto South Detention Centre in Etobicoke.  During the shutdown, the facility will be professional cleaned and sterilized.

We will continue to follow new information regarding how the COVID-19 pandemic is effecting the Canadian justice system and will provide updates in this blog

If you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, it is recommended that you contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer.  The lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP have many years of experience defending a wide variety of criminal offences.  Contact our office today online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Ontario Courts Consider COVID-19 on Bail Review

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The subject of the COVID-19 virus has made its way into Ontario’s criminal courts and has been considered a “material change” in circumstances in a recent decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

In considering bail review applications in the cases of R. v. J.S and R v. Nelson, the Judges both acknowledged that the practice of social distancing and self-isolation is limited in Ontario’s prisons.

J v. J.S.

A suspected drug dealer, identified as J.S., requested a bail review by teleconference.  The defence argued that the Justice of Peace erred and that there were material changes in circumstances to allow for a house arrest surety bail.  A surety is someone who agrees to supervise an accused person while he/she is released into the community, or in this case on house arrest, as he/she awaits a court date to resolve a criminal matter.

In Canada, bail decisions are made following the consideration of the following three sets of factors:

  1. Whether detention is needed to ensure an accused will attend court;
  2. To protect the public safety;
  3. The strength of the Crown’s case and the consideration of other circumstances surrounding a case.

In the case of J.S., Justice Copeland acknowledged that there were two material changes in circumstances, which included new proposed sureties and the fact that COVID-19 had developed in Canada.

According to Justice Copeland:

In my view, the greatly elevated risk posed to detained inmates from the coronoavirus, as compared to being at home on house arrest is a factor that must be considered in assessing the tertiary ground. …

[B]ased on current events around the world, and in this province, that the risks to health from this virus in a confined space with many people, like a jail, are significantly greater than if a defendant is able to self-isolate at home.  The virus is clearly easily transmitted, absent strong social distancing or self-isolation, and it is clearly deadly to a significant number of people who it infects.  The practical reality is that the ability to practice social distancing and self-isolation is limited, if not impossible, in an institution where inmates do not have single cells.  … If more people are infected, those resources will be more strained.

Justice Copeland granted Mr. S’s bail review application and ordered the following terms:

  • $15,000 surety recognizance;
  • to reside with his surety K.S.;
  • to remain in his residence at all times, except in the continuous presence of a surety or for a medical emergency of himself or an immediate family member;
  • to have no contact whatsoever with J.C.; and
  • to not possess any unlawful drugs, except with a valid prescription.

R v. NELSON

In another recent case in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Justice M. L. Edwards was asked to consider whether to release on bail 27-year-old Nathaniel Nelson (“Nelson”), who was suspected of robbing a jewelry store while armed.

Nelson’s lawyer argued that his client should not face “the heightened risk of contracting the virus – a risk that is heightened because of the conditions that exist in a prison environment”.  However, his lawyer also “conceded that but for the virus, he fully recognized that the new plan of release was not one that had much, if any, chance of success”.

Justice Edwards ruled that those seeking bail on the grounds of COVID-19 must present “at least some rudimentary evidence” that they are more susceptible to the virus due to underlying health issues.  He stated:

An incarcerated person who is advancing in age and who has underlying health issues will almost, without doubt, be at a greater health risk of contracting the virus, with possible serious ramifications.

The heightened risk facing those in jail due to the unlikelihood of practicing social distancing while in a jail cell with double or triple bunking was a factor considered by Justice Edwards on this bail review.  Nelson’s youth, lack of pre-existing physical or mental health conditions, his prior criminal record and the fact that his charges were serious were also factors considered by the court. 

Justice Edwards dismissed the bail application and concluded:

I do not take lightly my decision to dismiss Mr. Nelson’s application.  Mr. Nelson previously did not meet his onus on the secondary and tertiary grounds for release. … I am not satisfied that there would be confidence in the administration of justice if Mr. Nelson was released from jail.

We will continue to follow any developments in the law with respect to the impact of COVID-19 and will provides updates in this blog

If you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.

Reduced Sentence for Drunk Driver Who Killed Three

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The driver of a vehicle who was involved in deadly car accident has had his sentence reduced from nine years to seven years by the Ontario Court of Appeal who found that the trial judge erred in reviewing punishments imposed in similar cases.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On April 10, 2016, Prithvi Randhawa (“Randhawa”), 22 years-old at the time, drove his vehicle, including four friends, at a high rate of speed through a residential neighbourhood after a night of drinking at Luxy night club in Concord.  Randhawa was found to have twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system.

Travelling at 135 km/h on Jane Street, Randhawa collided with a traffic signal pole near Sheppard Avenue West, the vehicle went airborne and crashed upside down.  The four passengers were all ejected from the vehicle.  Three of them died and one was serious injured.  The passengers ranged in age between 19 to 24 years-old.

The surviving passenger, Atul Verma, suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fractured ankle, knee damage, a lacerated liver and lumbar spine fractures.  At the time of the trial, he continued to suffer from constant pain, sleepless nights and the deprivation of some of the activities that he used to enjoy.

As a result of the crash, Randhawa sustained a traumatic brain injury and collapsed lung.   He regained consciousness in hospital two days following the accident.  Due to the injuries he suffered, he lost all memory of the events starting from his time inside the nightclub until he regained consciousness.

Randhawa was found guilty of three counts of impaired driving causing death and one count of impaired driving causing bodily harm.  Justice James Chaffe sentenced him to nine years in jail and a driving ban of 93 months.

Justice Chaffe reviewed three similar cases before imposing a sentence.  He held that Randhawa’s conduct was “egregious” and worse than the cases he reviewed. One of the cases reviewed by Justice Chaffe was the sentencing of Marco Muzzo who killed three children and their grandfather while impaired in 2016.  The sentence Justice Chaffe imposed on Randhawa was a year less than the sentence in the Muzzo case.

THE APPEAL

Randhawa appealed Justice Chaffe’s sentencing decision arguing that the trial judge erred in determining his sentence within the ranges available.  More specifically, it was argued that the sentencing judge failed to consider or misconstrued facts regarding other similar cases when considering an appropriate sentence.

On behalf of the Court of Appeal, Justice Nordheimer found that Justice Chaffe failed to explain why Randhawa’s offence was worse than two of the cases that he had reviewed.  Justice Nordheimer stated:

I am unable to find a basis upon which the sentencing judge’s finding could be supported.  This is of concern because, as I have said, it is this finding that clearly drove the sentencing judge to determine that a sentence of nine years was appropriate.

Justice Nordheimer ruled that Randhawa’s conduct was most similar to two of the cases under consideration, involving impairment, driving too fast and multiple deaths.  Justice Nordheimer also found that the sentencing judge failed to give consideration to Randhawa’s young age and the fact that Randhawa suffered very serious injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, in the crash.

Randhawa also argued that the sentencing judge did not consider that he will be facing numerous civil lawsuits arising from the accident, and subject to large judgments.  Justice Nordheimer did not find this to be an error made by the sentencing judge and is not a mitigating factor that is required to be considered when determining a sentence.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Alexandra Hoy was of the opinion that the sentencing decision was appropriate.  She felt that it was within Justice Chaffe’s discretion to conclude that Randhawa’s conduct was more egregious than the drivers in two of the cases.  Furthermore, Randhawa was driving even faster than Muzzo and in a busier area.  She also made note that Randhawa had a worse driving record than Muzzo, including infractions for speeding and running a red light. 

If you have been charged with a driving related offence or have questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.

Ontario Court Finds Prostitution Laws Unconstitutional

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

An Ontario court judge in London has recently ruled that parts of Canada’s prostitution laws are unconstitutional.  Justice Thomas McKay ruled that the charges of procuring, receiving a material benefit and advertising sexual services laid against a couple who ran an escort business should be stayed or set aside as they violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Although the judgement is significant, it does not nullify the law as the decision was made in provincial court and is not binding.  Therefore, the law remains in effect unless an appellate court agrees with Justice McKay’s lower court decision.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Hamad Anwar (“Anwar”) and Tiffany Harvey (“Harvey”) are common law spouses.  They ran an escort business called Fantasy World Escorts from December 2014 to November 2015.  Anwar owned the business and Harvey performed the management duties for the business.  Sexual services were provided in exchange for cash at two apartments in London, Ontario or other prearranged locations in London, Calgary and Edmonton. 

Both Anwar and Harvey were responsible for the company’s advertising, which included a website used to promote sexual services and to recruit new employees.  They also advertised on bus stop locations throughout the City of London.  They promised an average salary of $2,500 to $5,000 a week, paid annual vacation, benefits and help with tuition and book payments for students. 

In October 2015, an undercover police officer booked an encounter at a hotel in London.  The officer met the escort in the hotel room and gave her $220.  He then explained that he became nervous and was having second thoughts.  The escort texted Harvey to ask if she could return the money, but did not receive a response, so she left the hotel. 

The couple were charged with receiving a material benefit from sexual services (section 286.2(1)), procuring (section 286.3(1)) and advertising an offer to provide sexual services for consideration (section 286.4) in contravention of the Criminal Code.

CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE

In 2014, Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, received Royal Assent and altered Canada’s prostitution laws.  This bill criminalized the purchase of sex and communication, the actions of third parties who economically benefit from the sale of sex and any advertising of the sale of sexual services.  However, it did grant immunity to those individuals who advertise or sell their own sexual services.

The couple brought an Application before the court to challenge the constitutionality of the Criminal Code provisions that they were charged under.  They argued that these sections violate their Charter rights.

Anwar and Harvey argued before Justice McKay that the law did not provide sex worker protections to other sectors of society, including third-party managers, and did not allow sex workers the ability to form their own associations to protect themselves.  They also argued that the law violated their freedom of expression and the freedom from unreasonable government interference.

In short, the couple maintained that these laws endanger sex workers by forcing them to work alone, without any protection or ability to outline terms or conditions or to screen clients. 

Following eight days of evidence, Justice McKay found that the three provisions of the Criminal Code violated the rights set out in the Charter, and these violations could not be justified. 

McKay ruled that the criminalization of third-parties makes it almost impossible for most sex workers to work together, for health and safety reasons or to share staff.  He wrote that the effect of the current law is, “at a basic level to deprive sex workers of those things that are natural, expected and encouraged in all other sectors of the economy.  As a result, sex workers, who are more likely in need of protection than most workers, are denied the benefits accorded to mainstream labour.

McKay also ruled that the criminalization of procuring has the effect of isolating marginalized or inexperienced sex workers and prevents them from seeking advice and support from more experienced peers.

Although this is a lower level decision, it is an important decision for judges who consider similar cases. Defence lawyer, James Lockyer, stated:

In order for the sections to be considered null and void, it would have to go up to the next level of court to the Ontario Court of Appeal.  And that’s up to the Crown whether or not they appeal it.   That’s in their hands, not ours.  And if the Ontario Court of appeal gives a decision, if there was an appeal, then ultimately one or the other parties could take it on to the Supreme Court of Canada.

We will continue to provide updates on this blog regarding any developments with respect to prostitution law in Canada and specifically with respect to this case if Justice McKay’s decision is appealed.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a sexual offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services.  We are available when you need us most.

New Trial Ordered for Homeowner Who Killed Car Thief

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In a unanimous decision, a Hamilton-area man who killed a car thief in front of his home has been ordered to stand trial on the charge of second-degree murder. 

The Ontario Court of Appeal has overturned Peter Khill’s (“Khill”) finding of not guilty.

On appeal, the court has ruled that the trial judge failed to instruct the jury to consider Khill’s conduct leading up to the moment he pulled the trigger and killed Jon Styres (“Styres”), a First Nations man.

In June 2018 (please see our blog regarding the trial), Khill, a homeowner and former army reservist, was found not guilty following a 12-day jury trial where he maintained that he fired his gun in self-defence.  An individual can use reasonable force to alleviate a threat to themselves or others under the laws of self-defence in Canada.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On February 4, 2016 at approximately 3 a.m., Khill and his girlfriend were woken up by two loud, banging noises.  When he looked outside, Khill saw that the lights were on in his 2001 GMC pickup truck.

Given his military training, Khill proceeded to grab a 12 gauge shotgun from his bedroom closet.  He loaded it with two shells and ran outside to confront Styres, who was trying to steal his truck.  He came up behind Styres, who was leaning over the passenger-side seat, and shouted “Hey, hands up!”.  Styres reacted by turning toward Khill with his hands sweeping forward in a motion that allegedly led Khill to believe that he had a gun.  Khill argued that this response provoked him to fire two close-range shots that killed Styres, almost immediately. 

At his trial, Khill told the court:

I felt that I was being threatened and that I wasn’t in control of the situation.  I needed to gain control of the situation and neutralize any threat that was there. … I thought my life was in danger and I think the right to self-defence is overlapping between military and civilian life.

The Crown prosecutor argued that Styres did not pose a reasonable threat and that Khill and his girlfriend should have called 911 and waited for police to arrive, rather than approach Styres with a loaded shotgun. 

At the trial, the jury learned that Styres did not have a gun that night and was only carrying a folding knife in his pocket.

Khill pleaded not guilty and his lawyer argued that the shooting was “justified” as Khill believed that Styres had a gun and he feared for his life.  Furthermore, it was argued that Khill was following his training as a military reservist and was acting reasonably to defend himself under the circumstances.  A Hamilton jury found Khill not guilty of the murder of Styres.

THE APPEAL

At the appeal, the Crown prosecutor argued that the trial judge made four errors.  It was argued that three of the errors involved instructions to the jury regarding self-defence and the fourth error was in regard to the admissibility of evidence from an expert.

The appeal court agreed with one of the Crown’s submissions of an error by the trial judge, allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial on the basis that the trial judge failed to appropriately instruct the jury.  Specifically, the trial judge failed to instruct the jury to consider Khill’s conduct leading up to the moment the trigger was pulled leaving them incompetent to evaluate the “reasonableness” of his actions.

The Appeal Court said:

Mr. Khil’s role in the incident leading up to the shooting was potentially a significant factor in the assessment of the reasonableness of the shooting.  The failure to explain that relevance and to instruct the jury on the need to consider Mr. Khill’s conduct throughout the incident in assessing the reasonableness of the shooting left the jury unequipped to grapple with what may have been a crucial question in the evaluation of the reasonableness of Mr. Khill’s act.  On this basis, the acquittal must be set aside and a new trial ordered.

Khill’s lawyer has stated that he is reviewing the appeal court decision and considering whether to make an application for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

Khill is also facing an ongoing civil lawsuit for more than $2 million brought by Styres’ spouse and two young daughters.

We will continue to follow any updates regarding this case and will provide any new developments in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a free consultation and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Trust our experienced criminal lawyers to handle your defence with diligence, strategy and expertise.