R. v. Sinclair (T.), (2011) 268 Man.R.(2d) 225 (SCC)

JudgeMcLachlin, C.J.C., Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella, Charron, Rothstein and Cromwell, JJ.
CourtSupreme Court of Canada
Case DateJuly 28, 2011
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(2011), 268 Man.R.(2d) 225 (SCC);2011 SCC 40;[2011] 3 SCR 3;270 CCC (3d) 421;[2011] CarswellMan 380;268 Man R (2d) 225;2011 SCC 41;418 NR 282;[2011] SCJ No 40 (QL);[2011] 3 SCR 42

R. v. Sinclair (T.) (2011), 268 Man.R.(2d) 225 (SCC);

      520 W.A.C. 225

MLB headnote and full text

[French language version follows English language version]

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

.........................

Temp. Cite: [2011] Man.R.(2d) TBEd. AU.001

Her Majesty The Queen (appellant) v. Terrence Sinclair (respondent) and Director of Public Prosecutions of Canada and Attorney General of Ontario (intervenors)

(33359; 2011 SCC 40; 2011 CSC 40)

Indexed As: R. v. Sinclair (T.)

Supreme Court of Canada

McLachlin, C.J.C., Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella, Charron, Rothstein and Cromwell, JJ.

July 28, 2011.

Summary:

The accused (Sinclair and Pruden-Wilson) were charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault after a robbery victim was beaten and stabbed, then left motionless on the street at night, where he was killed 10 minutes later when run over by a car.

The Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, in a judgment reported at (2007), 219 Man.R.(2d) 63, found the accused guilty of manslaughter. Convictions for aggravated assault were conditionally stayed under the Kienapple principle. The accused were sentenced to six years' imprisonment. Both accused appealed their convictions and sentences on the ground that the trial judge erred respecting causation. Sinclair also appealed on the ground that the evidence did not support the finding that he was one of the assailants.

The Manitoba Court of Appeal, in a judgment reported at (2009), 240 Man.R.(2d) 135;  456 W.A.C. 135, dismissed Pruden-Wilson's appeal. The trial judge did not err in finding that the victim being run over by a car was not an intervening act that broke the chain of causation. The court allowed Sinclair's appeal on the ground that the trial judge mis-characterized or misapprehended identification evidence, resulting in the verdict against him being unreasonable or unsupported by the evidence. A new trial was ordered. The Crown appealed, arguing that the Court of Appeal erred in the governing test for unreasonable verdicts under s. 686(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code.

The Supreme Court of Canada, McLachlin, C.J.C., Binnie, Fish and Cromwell, JJ.A., dissenting, allowed the appeal, set aside the order for a new trial and restored the conviction. The trial judge did not misapprehend evidence.

Criminal Law - Topic 4852

Appeals - Indictable offences - Grounds of appeal - Miscarriage of justice - Three persons robbed a man, beat and stabbed him, and left him motionless on a street, where he was run over and killed - The Court of Appeal held that the accuseds' manslaughter conviction was based partially on non-existent "evidence" from which the judge inferred that the accused was at the crime scene - Applying R. v. Beaudry (S.C.C.), the court held that the misapprehension of evidence led to an unreasonable verdict - A new trial was ordered - The Supreme Court of Canada restored the conviction - The court held that "while a verdict that rests on a mistake as to the substance of the evidence may well be 'unreasonable' in the broad sense of that term, Beaudry has no application to errors of this sort. Rather they are governed by R. v. Lohrer." - The appellate court erred in finding that the judge apparently relied on this non-existent "evidence" to infer that the accused was at the crime scene - The court stated that "for an appellate court to decide to order a new trial on the basis of a miscarriage of justice resulting from a misapprehension of the evidence, more is needed than an 'apparent' mistake (e.g., an error that the trial judge may have committed) in the reasons. A Court of Appeal should not, in applying the Lohrer test, order a new trial unless the trial judge has made a real error; its decision cannot be speculative. The plain language or the thrust of the reasons must disclose an actual mistake." - The judge did not rely on this evidence to infer the accused's presence at the crime scene - The judge referred to the other evidence supporting the finding that the accused participated in the robbery, stating that any "misapprehension was not materially linked to the inference she drew with respect to [the accused's] presence at the crime scene. For a misapprehension of evidence to be material within the meaning of the Lohrer test, it must go to a central element of the trial judge's reasoning on which the conviction is based" - In this case, even if a misapprehension of evidence occurred, it was not material - See paragraphs 1 to 26, 43 to 63.

Criminal Law - Topic 4865

Appeals - Indictable offences - Grounds of appeal - Verdict unreasonable or unsupported by evidence - [See Criminal Law - Topic 4852 ].

Criminal Law - Topic 4957

Appeals - Indictable offences - New trials - Grounds - Misapprehension of evidence - [See Criminal Law - Topic 4852 ].

Criminal Law - Topic 5020

Appeals - Indictable offences - Setting aside verdicts - Verdict unreasonable or unsupported by evidence - [See Criminal Law - Topic 4852 ].

Criminal Law - Topic 5020

Appeals - Indictable offences - Setting aside verdicts - Verdict unreasonable or unsupported by evidence - The Supreme Court of Canada discussed the governing test for unreasonable verdicts under s. 686(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code: "While a verdict that rests on a mistake as to the substance of the evidence may well be 'unreasonable' in the broad sense of that term, Beaudry has no application to errors of this sort. Rather, they are governed by R. v. Lohrer ... Nor does Beaudry govern trial court decisions that are rendered inscrutable by an absence of sufficient reasons, as in R. v. Sheppard ... Nothing in Beaudry should be taken as a departure from the well-established principles of appellate review set out in R. v. Yebes ... Yebes and Biniaris continue to apply where the issue is whether the verdict could have been reached reasonably by a properly instructed jury or a judge sitting alone. Beaudry ... involves a narrower inquiry. Its concern is whether it can be seen from the reasons for judgment that the trial judge's conclusion - that is to say, the judge's verdict - was reached illogically or irrationally ... Beaudry is concerned with 'fundamental flaws' in the reasoning process that led to [the trial judge's verdict]. ... the Beaudry test addresses the reasonableness of the judge's verdict, notably by scrutinizing the logic of the judge's findings of fact or inferences drawn from the evidence admitted at trial. A trial judge who is mistaken as to the evidence admitted at trial misapprehends the evidence, inviting appellate scrutiny under Lohrer, not Beaudry; a trial judge who is not mistaken as to the evidence but reaches a verdict by an illogical or irrational reasoning process commits an error under Beaudry; not Lohrer. These are conceptually distinct errors. To conflate them is to disregard the rationale of Beaudry and the jurisprudential gap it has filled" - See paragraphs 3, 4, 15.

Criminal Law - Topic 5020

Appeals - Indictable offences - Setting aside verdicts - Verdict unreasonable or unsupported by evidence - The Supreme Court of Canada stated that "illogical or irrational reasoning can render verdicts unreasonable under s. 686(1)(a)(i) of the [Criminal] Code in various ways. Beaudry identifies two. First, a verdict is unreasonable where the judge draws an inference or makes a finding of fact essential to the verdict that is 'plainly contradicted by the very evidence from which it was drawn' or upon which it has been made to rest ... A verdict is likewise unreasonable where the judge draws an inference or makes a finding of fact essential to the verdict if that inference or finding of fact is '"demonstrably incompatible' with evidence that is neither contradicted by other evidence nor rejected by the trial judge' ... The remedy will depend on the circumstances of the case. Where the verdict is found to be unreasonable under Beaudry and, in any event, unavailable on the record, an acquittal will ensue pursuant to Biniaris. But where the verdict is found to be unreasonable under Beaudry and the record discloses 'evidence capable of supporting a conviction', a new trial will be ordered. ... A verdict reached illogically or irrationally is 'unreasonable' because it is not reached judicially, or in accordance with the rule of law." - See paragraphs 19, 21, 23, 26.

Cases Noticed:

R. v. Beaudry (A.), [2007] 1 S.C.R. 190; 356 N.R. 323; 2007 SCC 5, refd to. [para. 3].

R. v. Lohrer (A.W.), [2004] 3 S.C.R. 732; 329 N.R. 1; 208 B.C.A.C. 1; 344 W.A.C. 1; 2004 SCC 80, appld. [para. 3].

R. v. Sheppard (C.), [2002] 1 S.C.R. 869; 284 N.R. 342; 211 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 50; 633 A.P.R. 50; 2002 SCC 26, refd to. [para. 3].

R. v. Yebes, [1987] 2 S.C.R. 168; 78 N.R. 351, refd to. [para. 4].

R. v. Biniaris (J.), [2000] 1 S.C.R. 381; 252 N.R. 204; 134 B.C.A.C. 161; 219 W.A.C. 161; 2000 SCC 15, refd to. [para. 4].

R. v. Morrissey (R.J.) (1995), 80 O.A.C. 161; 97 C.C.C.(3d) 193 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 13].

R. v. Pittiman (R.), [2006] 1 S.C.R. 381; 346 N.R. 65; 209 O.A.C. 388, refd to. [para. 17].

R. v. O'Brien (M.D.) (2011), 304 N.S.R.(2d) 383; 960 A.P.R. 383; 417 N.R. 52; 2011 SCC 29, refd to. [para. 53].

R. v. C.L.Y., [2008] 1 S.C.R. 5; 370 N.R. 284; 225 Man.R.(2d) 146; 419 W.A.C. 146; 2008 SCC 2, refd to. [para. 54].

R. v. Jaw (S.G.), [2009] 3 S.C.R. 26; 393 N.R. 246; 464 A.R. 149; 467 W.A.C. 149, refd to. [para. 81].

Counsel:

Elizabeth A. Thomson and Ami Kotler, for the appellant;

Richard J. Wolson, Q.C., and Evan Roitenberg, for the respondent;

James D. Sutton and Carole Sheppard, for the intervenor, Director of Public Prosecutions of Canada;

Joan Barrett, for the intervenor, Attorney General of Ontario.

Solicitors of Record:

Manitoba Prosecution Service, Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the appellant;

Gindin, Wolson, Simmonds, Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the respondent;

Public Prosecution Service of Canada, Gatineau, Quebec, for the intervenor, Director of Public Prosecutions of Canada;

Attorney General of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervenor, Attorney General of Ontario.

This appeal was heard on December 14, 2010, before McLachlin, C.J.C., Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella, Charron, Rothstein and Cromwell, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada.

On July 28, 2011, the judgment of the Court was delivered in both official languages and  the following opinions were filed:

Fish, J. (McLachlin, C.J.C., Binnie and Cromwell, JJ., concurring), dissenting in the result - see paragraphs 1 to 42;

LeBel, J. (Deschamps and Rothstein, JJ., concurring) - see paragraphs 43 to 63;

Charron, J., concurring in result - see paragraphs 64 to 86;

Abella, J., concurring in result - see paragraph 87.

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