Federal Court


Undisclosed documents went to pivotal issue of whether accused would have testified

Accused applied for judicial review of decision of Minister of Justice refusing to grant remedy regarding two convictions for fraud imposed and upheld on appeal. Accused was lawyer who joined two of his clients in starting family restaurant franchise, and sold shares in partnership. Project began to fall apart when popularity of restaurant was less than expected and its revenues declined, limited partnership was petitioned into bankruptcy by bank, and Securities Commission launched inquiry resulting in civil action and criminal charges. Accused was convicted of two counts of concealing information from investors. Accused put forward as grounds for his application non-disclosure of significant evidence at trial, including evidence that had been available to Crown, and new evidence allegedly discrediting certain witness testimony. Two key items of undisclosed evidence were detailed admissions of guilt by accused’s partners to Securities Commission and pre-trial agreement struck between those partners and investors in relation to action against accused for professional malpractice. Accused and his counsel at time of trial, gave evidence in support of application that they would have conducted defence strategy very differently had this information been known to them. Accused would have testified in his own defence and counsel would have attacked credibility of witnesses more aggressively. Instead, formal counsel stated he had deliberately avoided challenging evidence of elderly investors for fear of being seen to be too harsh on victims. Application granted with costs; matter returned to Minister for reconsideration. Minister’s delegate found that there was “reasonable possibility” that accused would have testified in his own defence and that his counsel may have changed his approach in cross-examining investors if Settlement Agreements and Assignment Deal had been disclosed at trial. Minister disagreed with these conclusions but did not interview witnesses or read volumes of documents assembled in investigation. Question to be decided was whether accused received fair trial as result of non-disclosure, not whether outcome would have been affected. Witnesses, accused’s partners and investors, were at heart of Crown’s case on counts on which accused was convicted. Undisclosed documents also went directly to pivotal issue of whether accused would have testified if he had known of them. Decision lacked justification, transparency and intelligibility and did not fall within range of possible, acceptable outcomes which were defensible in respect of facts and law.

Ross v. Canada (Minister of Justice)

(Apr. 7, 2014, F.C., Richard G. Mosley J., File No. T-1790-10) 113 W.C.B. (2d) 196.

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