Acquittal Won: No one can be convicted without proof beyond a reasonable doubt

We are glad to have won our client an acquittal on the basis of a pillar of Canada’s criminal judicial system: the Crown must prove that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. No matter what the crime or what the potential sentence, nothing short of this standard will do to deprive a person of their liberty according to the tenets of the Canadian system. In a case of sexual assault and sexual interference, we were able to advocate for our client by putting the evidence to this standard.

In our thorough analysis of the evidence, we propounded the law set down by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. W. (D.) in 1991. Cory J then wrote:

  • The trial judge should instruct the jury that: (1) if they believe the evidence of the accused, they
  • First, if you believe the evidence of the accused, obviously you must acquit.
  • Second, if you do not believe the testimony of the accused but you are left in reasonable doubt by it, you must acquit.
  • Third, even if you are not left in doubt by the evidence of the accused, you must ask yourself whether, on the basis of the evidence which you do accept, you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt by that evidence of the guilt of the accused.

These resounding words come from para 28 of R. v. W. (D.) [D.W.], [1991] S.C.J. No. 26.

At the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Miller J cited these words in her decision acquitting our client of sexual assault and sexual interference. After examining the evidence, the Crown herself consented to withdraw the third charge, sexual exploitation, because there was not sufficient evidence to support the charge in all its elements. That said, two serious charges remained against our client, and Miller J herself found the complainant credible in her testimony. If a complainant testifies that these acts were done to her, and the judge finds her credible, then how could that judge acquit the accused?

It is of paramount importance to uphold the foundations of Canada’s judicial system. When a person is charged with a criminal offence, the accused always retains the presumption of innocence until that person is proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. The Crown has the duty not of achieving conviction, but of pursuing justice. And criminal defence attorneys have the job of upholding these foundations.

In her decision, her Honour, Miller J, wrote that there is a difference between credibility and reliability. She cited R. v. H.C. [2009] O.J. No. 214 (C.A.) at para 41, and affirmed:

A credible witness may give unreliable evidence.

And no conviction should ever be based on unreliable evidence, no matter how apparently credible the witness for the Crown. The accused must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, or that person cannot be convicted.

These tenets of justice exist so that wrongful convictions – due to prejudice, politics or human error – become as rare as possible. The standard is rigorous so that neither bias nor mistakes nor anything short of proof beyond a reasonable doubt cost people their liberty in Canada.

We take our work of upholding this standard seriously, and we serve each client with devotion to this principle of law. As Cory J wrote:

you must ask yourself whether, on the basis of the evidence which you do accept, you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt by that evidence of the guilt of the accused.

With this and a thorough examination of the evidence, we applied the law to save our client’s liberty.