Ontario Criminal


Criminal Law

Offences

Trial judge considered many strands of circumstantial evidence

Accused and 15-year-old deceased travelled on accused’s snowmobile, which failed to properly negotiate turn in road and collided with tree. Deceased was killed as result of collision. Single issue at trial was identity of driver of snowmobile. Accused was found guilty of impaired driving causing death, driving with excessive alcohol causing death, and driving while disqualified. Accused’s blood alcohol reading was over legal limit. Trial judge entered convictions on counts of impaired driving causing death and driving while disqualified, and stay on count of driving with excessive alcohol causing death. Accused appealed convictions. Appeal dismissed. Trial judge did not err in failing to consider exculpatory portions of parts of accused’s 911 call, in which he said he crashed his snowmobile, and of his statement to police officer at hospital. Those utterances were relevant to issue of identity of driver, and trial judge was entitled to accept or reject that evidence in whole or in part. Reading reasons as whole, trial judge did not found his conviction on some lesser standard than proof beyond reasonable doubt. Trial judge considered many strands of circumstantial evidence and then assessed their cumulative effect. Piecemeal analysis invited by accused was inconsistent with approach to circumstantial evidence required by authorities. Complaint that trial judge erred by permitting Crown to split its case by calling reply evidence failed. Evidence did not exceed what law permits. It was conceded that if impaired operation convictions were sustained, conviction for driving while disqualified could not be impeached as unreasonable.

R. v. Cook (2016), 2016 CarswellOnt 16445, 2016 ONCA 794, David Watt J.A., P. Lauwers J.A., and M.L. Benotto J.A. (Ont. C.A.); affirmed (2012), 2012 CarswellOnt 2492, 2012 ONSC 985, J.S. O’Neill J. (Ont. S.C.J.).

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