In Canada, everyone is entitled to a fair criminal trial. Except in specified circumstances, your previous wrongdoings should not be held against you at a trial on unrelated charges. A jury should not be influenced into thinking that you are a ‘bad person’ in general and are therefore likely to commit the crime(s) in question. In the recent decision in R v FT, 2015 ONCA 904, the Court of Appeal found Crown counsel focused too heavily on a defendant’s unrelated past misconduct and as a result, a miscarriage of justice occurred.
The defendant, F.T., was the father of four children. Two of his daughters, C.B. and R.G., alleged that they were sexually abused by F.T. for many years. At trial, the jury found F.T. guilty of multiple sexual offences. The defendant appealed the decision, arguing that the trial judge did not properly instruct the jury on the issue of F.T.’s prior discreditable conduct.
Although the evidence of each daughter overlapped, the Crown did not ask for a similar act evidence ruling that would have allowed the allegations of one daughter to support or confirm the allegations of the other. F.T. testified that the allegations of abuse were untrue. His evidence was support by his wife and two of his other adult children.
Crown counsel persistently cross-examined defence witnesses on the defendant’s use of his belt to discipline his children despite the fact that the defendant was not charged with assaulting any of his children with a belt.
The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge’s instruction to the jury was incomplete. The jury should also have been advised that they could not use the evidence of one daughter to support or confirm the evidence of the other. In addition, the trial judge should have instructed the jury that they could not use the evidence of F.T.’s discreditable conduct to find that he had a propensity to commit the crimes with which he was charged.
As a result, the Court of Appeal quashed all convictions against the defendant and ordered a new trial.
This article is a brief overview of a complex case and is not intended to be construed as comprehensive legal advice. To learn more about this case or any other criminal defence matter, please contact the lawyers at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.
To read the full decision, click here.