Supreme Court

Criminal Law


Appeal from conviction or acquittal

Reasons failed to reveal basis on which trial judge concluded Crown proved mental element

Accused travelled from Antigua to Toronto. Canada Border Services Officer retrieved unclaimed piece of luggage from accused’s flight which contained 15 one-kilogram bricks of cocaine. Accused’s name was on luggage tag and his DNA was on sock inside. Accused’s denial at trial of any knowledge of drugs or of checking luggage onto flight was not believed. Accused was convicted of importing cocaine. Accused appealed. Appeal was dismissed. Majority ruled that trial judge gave detailed reasons for rejecting accused’s evidence and properly applied third part of R. v. W.(D.) analysis. Trial judge appeared to reverse onus of proof in context but he did understand burden of proof and properly applied it. Crown adduced strong physical evidence to prove accused’s guilt, including fact that cocaine was in suitcase that he owned that contained item of clothing with his DNA on it. Crown’s case in chief and facts accepted by trial judge established prima facie case that accused committed actus reus of offence, with compelling resulting inference that he did so knowingly. Read in context, trial judge’s reasons sufficiently explained basis upon which he found that knowledge component had been proved beyond reasonable doubt. In dissenting opinion one justice ruled that combination of trial judge’s misstatement of onus of proof under third step of R. v. W.(D.) along with his failure to make finding of fact about only factual matter in issue, whether accused knew about cocaine in his suitcase, meant appeal should be allowed. Accused appealed. Appeal allowed. Court was in agreement with dissenting opinion. Trial judge’s reasons, even when read as whole and in context of trial record, failed to reveal basis on which trial judge concluded that Crown had proven mental element of offence beyond reasonable doubt. Reasons did not permit effective appellate review. 

R. v. Black (2018), 2018 CarswellOnt 3967, 2018 CarswellOnt 3968, 2018 SCC 10, 2018 CSC 10, Wagner C.J.C., Karakatsanis J., Brown J., Rowe J., and Martin J. (S.C.C.); reversed (2017), 2017 CarswellOnt 10794, 2017 ONCA 599, K.M. Weiler J.A., C.W. Hourigan J.A., and G. Pardu J.A. (Ont. C.A.).

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