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Tom Rees | Criminal Defence Lawyer Winnipeg

Inconsistent verdicts undermine legitimacy of convictions

An unusual case out of Ontario causes the Ontario Court of Appeal to quash convictions for dangerous driving causing death.

[7]         Mr. Breen, on behalf of the appellants, advanced several grounds of appeal. I need consider only his submission that the conviction on count one (dangerous driving causing death) and the acquittal on count two (dangerous driving causing bodily harm) are irreconcilably inconsistent thereby rendering the conviction on count one unreasonable within the meaning of s. 686(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code. For the reasons that follow, I agree with this submission. I also agree with Mr. Breen’s submission that the irreconcilable inconsistency between the verdicts on counts one and two undermines the legitimacy and reliability of the convictions on the other charges.  In my view, all of the convictions must be quashed. I would enter an acquittal on count one (dangerous driving causing death), an acquittal on count four (accessory after the fact), and order a new trial on the obstruct police charges (counts five and six).

The court outlines the rules for inconsistent verdicts:

[21]      Inconsistent verdicts are a subspecies of unreasonable verdicts: R. v. Pittiman, 2006 SCC 9 (CanLII), [2006] 1 S.C.R. 381 at para. 6. If a trier of fact returns a conviction on one count (or against one accused), and an acquittal on another count (or against a co-accused), the inconsistency in the verdicts will only render the conviction unreasonable if the appellant can demonstrate that on any realistic view of the evidence, the verdicts cannot be reconciled on any rational or logical basis: R. v. McShannock(1980), 55 C.C.C. (2d) 53 (Ont. C.A.) at 56; Pittiman, at paras. 7-8.

In conclusion:

[39]      I would allow the appeals.  I would quash all of the convictions.  I would acquit Mr. DeForest on count one (dangerous driving causing death) and I would acquit Ms. Catton on count four (being an accessory after the fact to dangerous driving).  I would order a new trial for Mr. DeForest and Ms. Catton on the obstruct police charges (counts five and six).


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