Interesting Judgments (Criminal Law Cases)

Corporate Crime Cases

R. v. Waterloo Mercury Sales, [1974] A.J. No. 135

Facts:

  • In this Alberta case, a used-car sales manager turned back odometers and, as a result, defied orders from senior officials.
  • The corporation (selling the cars) was charged with fraud.

Issue:

  • Is the corporation guilty of fraud, even though the sales manager committed the fraud?

Decision:

  • This manager was found to the directing mind/will of the corporation (i.e. he was making decisions for and directing the corporation’s affairs) and, in the end, the corporation was held criminally liable for fraud.

Delay (of Trial) Cases

R. v. Askov, [1990] 2 S.C.R. 1199

Facts:

  • Three people were charged with conspiracy to commit extortion, among other related offences.
  • They were charged in late 1983 and the trial was eventually scheduled to occur in late 1986.
  • The delay was not attributable to any misconduct on the part of the Crown (I.e. not their fault).
  • Instead, much of the delay was attributable to institutional problems, attributable to lack of funding.

Issue:

  • Should the charges be stayed (i.e. dismissed) because of the delay?

Decision:

  • The charges against the individuals were stayed (dismissed) because the trial had been unreasonably delayed.
  • People who are charged with criminal offences are entitled to be tried within a reasonable time, as required by section 11(b) of the Charter.

Commentary:

  • After the case, thousands of other alleged offenders were ‘let off’ in Ontario for the same reason.

R. v. Hammer, 2011 BCPC 0234

Facts:

  • Defendant was found (in Prince George) possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.
  • From the date that the individual was charged until the conclusion of the trial, 42.5 months had passed, 21.5 months were attributable to limitations on institutional resources (or, in other words, to lack of funding).

Issue:

  • Is the delay in this case sufficient to grant a stay of proceedings (i.e. to dismiss the charges)?

Decision:

  • The delay was such that Associate Chief Judge Brecknell granted a stay of proceedings.

Impaired Driving Cases

Sivia v. British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles), 2011 BCSC 1639

Facts:

  • The British Columbia government created a “new process” for the police to deal with impaired drivers.
  • The “new process” was as follows: a police officer stops a vehicle and, upon having a reasonable suspicion that there is alcohol in the driver’s body, requests that the driver submit to/blow into a screening device. If the driver blows a ‘fail’ on the screening device, the driver receives an automatic 90 day driving suspension and is then subject to monetary penalties and mandatory programs, such as a responsible driving program and an ignition interlock device (to be installed into the person’s vehicle). The penalties/programs could cost the suspended driver over $4,000.00.
  • The “old process” was as follows: a police officer stops a vehicle and, upon having a reasonable suspicion that there is alcohol in the driver’s body, requests that the driver submit to/blow into a roadside screening device, which renders a pass, warn, or fail reading. If the driver blows a ‘fail’, then the driver is taken to the police station and is further submitted to an approved breathalyzer machine that measures the person’s blood-alcohol level. If the person’s blood alcohol level is over 0.08 (when measured by the approved breathalyzer machine), then documents are forwarded from police to crown prosecutors who decide whether or not to proceed with criminal charges: Police don’t lay charges. If convicted, a judge then penalizes/sentences the drunk driver.
  • This “new process” didn’t require alleged impaired drivers to go to court and allowed police officers to issue a “ticket” and deal with alleged offenders on an expedited basis (on the side of the road).  There was a limited review process for alleged offenders to challenge the police officer’s findings.

Issue:

  • Did the “new process” violate the rights of British Columbians?

Decision:

  • On November 30, 2011, Mr. Justice Sigurdson ruled that the new law unreasonably infringes section 8 of the Charter, specifically for those people who blew a ‘fail’.
  • Put simply, the Court said that, based on the significant penalties, the B.C. Government should have created a reasonable and meaningful review process where a driver can challenge the results of the screening device (after blowing a ‘fail’). As it stood, the law needed to be changed.

Commentary:

  • The B.C. Government chose not to appeal the decision and, instead, chose to amend the law.
  • On June 15, 2012, the ‘tough’ impaired driving laws came back (after some revision). The revisions are: 1) police now have to tell drivers that they are entitled to a second blow test; 2) police must now ‘swear’ their reports that they submit; and 3) police must now submit documents confirming the accuracy of the screening devices.
  • The government seemingly did not address Mr. Justice Sigurdson’s recommendations and the matter is back in court.

Murder Cases

R. v. Jobidon, [1991] 2 S.C.R. 714 

Facts:

  • Mr. Jobidon fought Mr. Haggart, who was celebrating his bachelor party, outside of a bar.
  • Mr. Haggart was bigger and had trained as a boxer; but, despite that, Mr. Jobidon landed a (lucky?) punch on Mr. Haggart’s face. Mr. Jobidon then followed up with a few more punches.
  • Mr. Haggart later died

Issue:

  • Should Mr. Jobidon be convicted of manslaughter even though Mr. Jobidon and Mr. Haggart were in a fist fight?

Decision:

  • Mr. Jobidon was convicted of manslaughter.

R. v. Ryan, 2013 SCC 3

Facts:

  • Ms. Ryan was the victim of a violent, abusive, and controlling husband.  Ms. Ryan believed that he would cause her and their daughter serious bodily harm or death and that she had no safe avenue of escape other than having him killed.
  • She spoke to an undercover RCMP officer posing as a hit man and agreed to pay him $25,000 to kill her husband.
  • She was arrested and charged with counselling the commission of an offence not committed contrary to s. 464(a) of theCriminal Code.
  • The trial judge was satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the requisite elements of the offence were established.

Issue:

  • The only issue at trial was whether the defence of duress applied. The trial judge accepted Ms. Ryan’s evidence that the sole reason for her actions was intense and reasonable fear arising from her husband’s threats of death and serious bodily harm to herself and their daughter.
  • The trial judge found that the common law defence of duress applied and acquitted Ms. Ryan.

Decision:

  • The defence of duress is only available when a person commits an offence while under compulsion of a threat made for the purpose of compelling him or her to commit the offence. This was not Ms. Ryan’s situation and the defence of duress was not available to her. If an accused is threatened without compulsion, his or her only defence is self‑defence.
  • The common law defence of duress does not apply to Ms. Ryan.  Ms. Ryan’s acquittal is set aside.
  • With that said, though, Ms. Ryan should not receive a conviction.
  • The circumstances of this case are exceptional and warrant a stay of proceedings. Although the appeal should be allowed, it would not be fair to subject Ms. Ryan to another trial. The abuse she suffered and the protracted nature of these proceeding have taken an enormous toll on her.

R. v. Hill, [1986] 1 S.C.R. 313

Facts:

  • A 16 year old male killed a man after reacting to that man’s uninvited homosexual advances.
  • The sixteen-year-old male relied on the defence of provocation and self‑defence.

Issue:

  • Is the defence of provocation and self-defence available to the sixteen-year-old male who would otherwise be guilty of murder?

Decision:

  • The defences failed (and with good reason).
  • The sixteen-year-old male was convicted of murder.

R. v. Tran, 2010 S.C.C. 58

Facts:

  • Mr. Tran, an Edmonton man, stabbed his estranged wife’s boyfriend to death after finding them in bed together.
  • Mr. Tran tried to argue that he was provoked and shouldn’t be convicted of murder.

Issue:

  • Does the defence of provocation apply to Mr. Tran, such that he can escape a murder conviction?

Decision:

  • The Court rejected the provocation argument and Mr. Tran received a second-degree murder conviction.

Promoting Hatred Cases

R. v. Keegstra, [1990] 3 SCR 697

Facts:

  • Mr. Keegstra was an Alberta high school social studies teacher.  He taught his students that Jews were “treacherous”, “sadistic”, “money-loving”, and “child killers”.
  • He was charged with promoting hatred against a group of people, contrary to section 319(2) of the Criminal Code.

Issue:

  • Can Mr. Keegstra legally say these sorts of things, based on his “freedom of expression”, pursuant to section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Decision:

  • Mr. Keegstra’s freedom of expression does not allow him to promote hatred against a group of people.

Sexual Assault Cases

R. v. V.(K.B.), [1993] 2 SCR 857

Facts:

  • A father grabbed his son’s genitals to try to deter his son from grabbing the genital region of adults, showing him how much it hurts.

Issue:

  •  Is father guilty of sexually assaulting his three-year-old son?

Decision:

  • Clearly, there was NO sexual motive in this case.
  • BUT, the father was found guilty of sexual assault, as the sexual integrity of the child was violated.

Commentary:

  • A sexual assault could include (inappropriately) rubbing a piece of fruit against a stranger in the supermarket. It could also include grabbing and twisting someone’s nipple (i.e. what children refer to as giving someone a ‘purple nurple’). It can also refer to groping and raping someone.

L.(J.) v. N.(A.), 2007 QCCS 3226

Facts:

  • A woman questioned her new partner on his sexual history and was told that he did not have an STD. The man did not, however, disclose that he had not been tested in some time.
  • Relying on that information, the woman agreed to engage in unprotected sex.
  • Later, she began experiencing burning sensations, which was later found to be herpes (transmitted from her partner).
  • The woman then commenced a lawsuit for (physical and mental) losses that she suffered.

Issues:

  • Is the man (financially) responsible to the woman who caught herpes from him?

Decision:

  • At trial, the Court found that the man had deceptively driven the woman to engage in unprotected sex and was found liable for the woman’s medical costs and emotional distress.
  • But, with that said, the Court also found that the woman accepted the risks and took the man at his word. As a result, some of her claim was denied.

Shoplifting / Theft Cases

D.C.B. v. Zellers Inc. (1996), 138 D.L.R. (4th) 309

Facts:

  • In this case, the Plaintiff was sent a demand letter from Zellers, requesting $225.00 (after the Plaintiff’s child was caught shoplifting).
  • The Plaintiff sent the $225.00 to Zellers, but then realized that she shouldn’t have paid it.
  • She then sued Zellers to return the money.

Issue:

  • Does Zellers have to pay back the money that was sent to it?

Decision:

  • Zellers was ordered to pay back the money.

Southland Canada Inc. v. Zylike (1999), 256 A.R. 55

Facts:

  •  In this case, a 7-Eleven store attempted to get judgment against two people who were found guilty of shoplifting. The store claimed $250.00 from each person, claiming the cost of store security.

Issue:

  • Can the 7-Eleven store claim money against the shoplifters?

Decision:

  •  The judge dismissed the claims.

Overwaitea Food Group v. Aida Sarroca (18 October 1996), Surrey Registry No. C34195, BCPC

Facts:

  • A store employee stole from Overwaitea over an extended period of time.

Issue:

  • Does the store employee have to repay Overwaitea for the stolen items and the security/surveillance costs?

Decision:

  • Overwaitea was awarded $2,490.69 to compensate for $125 in stolen cash and $2,356.69 in surveillance costs.
  • As the theft was committed by a store employee, this was not a typical shoplifting case.

 Hudson’s Bay Co. v. White (1997), 22 O.T.C. 366

Facts:

  • Mr. White shoplifted gloves worth approx. $200.00, which were retrieved.
  • The Bay claimed over $2000.00 in security-related costs and punitive damages (damages intended to punish).

Issue:

  • Does Mr. White have to pay The Bay for shoplifting items?

Decision:

  • In the end, The Bay was (oddly) awarded $300.00 in punitive damages for trespass (Mr. White entered the store for unauthorized purpose of shoplifting).
  • While the Court did not explain the reason for the punitive damages, it did say that the cost of fighting crime was borne by everyone and could not be recovered on an individual basis in Small Claims Court.

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