Trial judge’s errors in assessment of credibility deprived accused of fair trial

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Trial judge’s errors in assessment of credibility deprived accused of fair trial

Accused were charged with importing cocaine and possessing cocaine for purpose of trafficking. Accused A and R were truck drivers who brought load of ice cream from California over border. Customs officials found large amount of cocaine hidden in load. Both accused testified and denied knowledge of cocaine. R testified that he left A overnight at one point in California. Trial judge rejected evidence of both accused and referred to R’s defence as alibi. Appeal from convictions dismissed. Majority of Court of Appeal held that trial judge mischaracterized R’s defence as alibi but this error did not affect his finding of guilt. Dissenting judge held that trial judge made numerous errors in assessing R’s credibility, depriving him of fair trial. R appealing to Supreme Court of Canada. For reasons given by dissenting judge, appeal allowed and new trial ordered.
R. v. Riar (Nov. 10, 2015, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., Abella J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., and Brown J., 36449) Decision at 121 W.C.B. (2d) 555 was reversed. 128 W.C.B. (2d) 107.

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