R. v. Aujla (J.S.) et al., 2015 SCC 50

JudgeMcLachlin, C.J.C., Abella, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, Wagner, Gascon and Brown, JJ.
CourtSupreme Court of Canada
Case DateNovember 10, 2015
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations2015 SCC 50;(2015), 477 N.R. 24 (SCC)

R. v. Aujla (J.S.) (2015), 477 N.R. 24 (SCC)

MLB headnote and full text

[French language version follows English language version]

[La version française vient à la suite de la version anglaise]

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Temp. Cite: [2015] N.R. TBEd. NO.012

Gurminder Singh Riar (appellant) v. Her Majesty the Queen (respondent)

(36449; 2015 SCC 50; 2015 CSC 50)

Indexed As: R. v. Aujla (J.S.) et al.

Supreme Court of Canada

McLachlin, C.J.C., Abella, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, Wagner, Gascon and Brown, JJ.

November 10, 2015.

Summary:

The accused truck drivers were convicted of importing cocaine and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. Hidden in their cargo of ice cream, in boxes marked "Public Storage", was 37 kilograms of cocaine worth $3.5 million. The accused had argued that they were "blind couriers" with no knowledge of the cocaine. The accused Aujla was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment. The accused Riar was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment. They both appealed against conviction and sentence.

The Ontario Court of Appeal, Laskin, J.A., dissenting in part, in a judgment reported (2015), 334 O.A.C. 361, dismissed both conviction appeals. The sentence appeals were allowed. The 16 and 14 year sentences were reduced to 12 and 10 years' imprisonment respectively. Laskin, J.A., would have allowed Riar's conviction appeal and ordered a new trial for him on the ground that numerous errors of law materially affected the trial judge's assessment of Riar's credibility, resulting in a miscarriage of justice. Riar appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada, substantially for the reasons of Laskin, J.A., allowed the appeal and remitted the matter for a new trial for Riar.

Criminal Law - Topic 5039

Appeals - Indictable offences - Dismissal of appeal if no prejudice, substantial wrong or miscarriage results - Effect of error by trial judge - General - [See Criminal Law - Topic 5404 ].

Criminal Law - Topic 5404

Evidence and witnesses - Witnesses - Credibility - The accused truck drivers (Aujla and Riar) picked up a trailer load of ice cream at a secure California facility - From that time until they reached the Ontario border they had control of the trailer - Customs officials found 37 kilograms of cocaine worth $3.5 million hidden in the middle of the loaded product - The accused claimed to be "blind couriers" with no knowledge of the cocaine - They argued that the cocaine must have been loaded at the California facility or by some unknown person breaking into the trailer while they were driving to Ontario - The trial judge convicted the accused of importing cocaine and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking - Adverse credibility findings were made against the accused - The alternative explanations for the presence of the cocaine were rejected - The Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the accused's conviction appeal - There was no error in the factors considered to assess the accused's credibility - It was open to the trial judge on the evidence to find that the cocaine was secreted in the trailer after the product was loaded and while the accused were en route to Ontario and in control of the trailer (i.e., both accused had knowledge of the cocaine) - The trial judge did not fail to consider the accused's guilt separately - While there were common issues, the trial judge made individual credibility assessments and considered their guilt or innocence separately - Although the trial judge misspoke when speaking of one accused relying on an alibi defence (visiting a friend prior to loading, leaving the other accused alone in control of the trailer), that error had no effect on the verdict where the trial judge found that the Crown proved that the cocaine was secreted in the load after the accused returned from this visit, when both had control of the trailer - Riar appealed - The Supreme Court of Canada allowed Riar's conviction appeal - The court agreed substantially with the reasons of Laskin, J.A., who would have allowed Riar's conviction appeal and ordered a new trial for him on the ground that numerous errors of law materially affected the trial judge's assessment of Riar's credibility, resulting in a miscarriage of justice.

Counsel:

[none disclosed]

Solicitors of Record:

[none disclosed]

This appeal was heard on November 10, 2015, before McLachlin, C.J.C., Abella, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, Wagner, Gascon and Brown, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada.

On the same date, McLachlin, C.J.C., delivered the following judgment orally in both official languages for the Court.

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