Trial judge’s mistakes warranted appellate intervention

Ontario criminal | Criminal Law

Offences

Breaking and entering and related offences

Trial judge’s mistakes warranted appellate intervention

Accused was convicted of break and enter with intent to commit indictable offence, two counts of break and enter and committing indictable offence, and three counts of possessing break-in instruments. Charges arose from three break-ins at fast-food restaurant. Crown’s similar fact evidence application in relation to two break-ins, in which safe was broken into and money stolen, was allowed. In respect of third break-in, no theft was committed because perpetrator was unable to access safe. DNA and witness evidence implicated accused. Accused appealed convictions. Appeal allowed. Trial judge erred with respect to use he made of accused’s criminal record and his evaluation of evidence was flawed in material respects. Trial judge concluded that several aspects of accused’s testimony strained belief, including his explanation for his DNA being on balaclava worn by perpetrator. Essentially, trial judge reasoned that if accused were truly innocent and was in wrong place at wrong time, his decision to remain in alley where suspect van was parked was undermined by his “criminal past and life experiences”. Trial judge’s use of accused’s criminal record went well beyond limited use permitted by Canada Evidence Act. Trial judge considered that accused had cast on his right arm at time of break-ins, but rejected his submission that due to his injury, he could not swing axe or use any of tools used in break-ins. Trial judge ignored relevant evidence that he was required to consider before rejecting accused’s evidence on that point. Trial judge also misapprehended evidence in saying that there were glass particles on accused’s shirt and running shoes. Trial judge’s misuse of accused’s criminal record, and cumulative effect of his mistakes in assessing evidence, warranted appellate intervention. New trial ordered.
R. v. Marini (2017), 2017 CarswellOnt 519, 2017 ONCA 46, Karen M. Weiler J.A., S.E. Pepall J.A., and G.T. Trotter J.A. (Ont. C.A.); reversed (2014), 2014 CarswellOnt 416, 2014 ONSC 86, E. Gareau J. (Ont. S.C.J.).

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