Ontario Criminal


Arson

Proof of offence
Discreditable conduct evidence was relevant to motive

Either residence’s owner or accused started fire in hole in basement stairway wall of owner’s 150-year old farmhouse. Accused and complainant, in romantic relationship at time, were only people at house that day. Crown alleged accused started fire at issue to avoid having to disclose to complainant that she did not have closing funds she claimed she had for property parties were supposed to buy together. That, in turn, would have risked exposing accused’s lies about her marriage, money she claimed to be receiving from her husband’s death and sale of their matrimonial home. Accused appealed her conviction for arson, arguing that trial judge reversed burden of proof, improperly allowed discreditable conduct evidence, and misapprehended evidence. Appeal dismissed. Discreditable conduct evidence was relevant to motive and properly admitted. Trial judge did not reverse burden of proof and impugned statements reflected he was responsive to defence arguments. While complainant had opportunity to set garage fire, trial judge rejected only apparent motive he would have had to start that fire: namely, to collect home insurance. That finding was based on accepting complainant’s evidence that he would not have benefitted from insurance claim, and was entitled to deference. Accused had motive to set house fire as trial judge found and even on her evidence, accused had about two to three minutes of opportunity to start garage fire. Trial judge found that accused was not credible witness on central issues of case such that misapprehension of impugned evidence would not have played central role in trial judge’s reasoning process resulting in conviction.

R. v. Bos (June 7, 2016, Ont. C.A., E.E. Gillese J.A., David Watt J.A., and M. Tulloch J.A., CA C56169) Decision at 103 W.C.B. (2d) 242 was affirmed. 131 W.C.B. (2d) 223.

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