Admission of accused’s criminal history was harmless error

Supreme court | Appeal

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Admission of accused’s criminal history was harmless error

Accused charged with robbery and related offences arising from knife-point robbery of variety store carried out by robber wearing a blue Halloween mask. Knife and blue mask with accused’s DNA found near the store. Police officer at accused’s trial testified that accused had lengthy criminal history. Trial judge did not refer to evidence of criminal history in his reasons for conviction. Majority of Court of Appeal set aside convictions on basis that trial judge erred in admitting evidence of the accused’s bad character. Appeal allowed and convictions restored. Admission of accused’s criminal history was harmless error. Reasons for conviction were clear that trial judge relied solely on DNA evidence and not on propensity evidence in convicting accused.

R. v. O’Brien
(June 9, 2011, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Abella, Rothstein and Cromwell JJ., File No. 33817) Decision at 90 W.C.B. (2d) 32 reversed. 95 W.C.B. (2d) 553 (25 pp.).

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