November 27, 2017
Thibault, Vauclair, Ruel
Appeal from a conviction. Dismissed. Application to introduce new evidence. Allowed.
The appellant appeals from a judgment convicting him on two (2) counts of criminal harassment, one (1) count of uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, one (1) count of assault, and fourteen (14) counts of breach of conditions.
The judge’s behaviour at trial does not raise a reasonable apprehension of bias. Because the accused before him was unrepresented, he was most accommodating with regard to how the trial unfolded. He also explained the rules governing the dynamic of examinations and cross-examinations to the appellant several times. He reminded him that his role required him to be neutral and that he would assess the witnesses’ credibility at the end of the trial. Indeed, the judge did not rule on the credibility of the appellant and his witnesses prematurely but reserved this task for his final judgment. What is more, when an accused is not represented by counsel, the trial judge must provide reasonable assistance to ensure a fair trial. Everything depends on context. The judge must ensure that the accused can make full answer and defence, while also requiring that the rules of criminal evidence be applied and that the accused have a general understanding of how they work. Here, the judge performed many acts to assist the appellant, who, after the second day of trial, ceased being represented by counsel and took over his own defence. The judge also ensured that only admissible evidence was put into the record, and he made a point of providing the appellant with the explanations he needed to make full answer and defence. In addition, the judge explained the purpose of s. 486.3(4) of the Criminal Code (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46) and granted him a recess to consult with counsel appointed under this provision about the appropriateness of cross-examining the complainant’s daughter. It might have been useful for the judge to inform the appellant about the consequences of not cross-examining the complainant and her daughter, but the lack of cross-examination had no impact on the fairness of the trial.
Finally, the appellant opted for simultaneous interpretation to help him understand the discussions. This way of proceeding complies with the fundamental requirement established by the Supreme Court, whereby interpretation must be contemporaneous (R. v. Tran (S.C. Can., 1994-09-01), SOQUIJ AZ-94111083, J.E. 94-1363,  2 S.C.R. 951). In addition, there is nothing to suggest the appellant’s choice would have been different had the judge explained the repercussions on the availability of the recording for a possible transcription.
*Summary by SOQUIJ
Text of the decision:
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