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July Criminal Law Round-up

Race and policing have been at the forefront of headlines, but the month of July brought a host of other criminal law issues into the news. Here are some highlights: 

News:

The month began with some disturbing case of police violence in the US and ended with a brutal case in Ottawa. Abdiraham Abdi, a 37 year old Somali Canadian died after a violent arrest by Ottawa police. The case has brought up questions about racism in Canada and the use of the force training by police. Sadly, it comes weeks after Ontario's ombudsman released a report criticising police use of force models and training. A recent march aimed to show support for the family and spark more conversation about police violence and intersections between race and mental illness. This article by Jamie Long of CBC provides some insight into the role that video can play in the SIU investigation, and references some recent cases, including that of Cst. James Forcillo in the death of Sammy Yatim. And if you missed my post on police accountability procedures in Ontario, you can find it here.

Parts of the carding legislation in Ontario came into force on July 1. The regulations restrict the ability of police officers to randomly stop individuals to check their identity, as these stops are understood to often be racially motivated. For an excellent resource that breaks down the new rules, check out the public legal education initiative "Between the Lines."

Justice Lori Douglas, who was the subject of a judicial scandal after her ex-husband leaked intimate photographs of her and the matter was reviewed by the Canadian Judicial Counsel spoke to 'Real Life' in an article outlining her experience. It is worth a read.

Cases:

The Supreme Court of Canada released a pair of cases that deals with the issue of delay in getting matters to trial. R v. Jordan and R. v. Williamson completely change the current regime and impose a 'presumptive ceiling' of the timelines that are acceptable. Leonid Sirota who writes the constitutional blog 'Double Aspect' provides an excellent overview of the new regime here as well as a critique of the decision here.

In British Columbia, a couple who were convicted of terrorism offences had their convictions stayed by the B.C. Supreme Court. The Court found that the RCMP went too far in entrapping the pair, essentially aiding and abetting the commission of the crimes in question. The lengthy decision is here and an overview of the case is here. (Incidentally, the case made the New York Times, which you can read here.)

The Supreme Court released a case involving the retrospective application of legislative amendments to s. 161 of the Criminal Code which gives courts the ability to restrict certain conduct of individuals convicted of sexual offences against a person under 16 years old once they are released into the community (in this case, using the internet). Even though the Charter generally prohibits the retrospective use of a harsher law, the court found that the rapidly changing landscape of new technology and social media warranted the restriction. Find the full case here and an overview here.

Cst. James Forcillo, who was convicted of attempting murder in the death of Sammy Yatim, was sentenced to 6 years. He is out on bail pending the outcome of his appeal of the decision. Find an overview which includes the bail decision here.

The Ontario Court of Appeal found in R v. Marakah that cell phone users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a text that is sent to and stored on a recipient's phone. The case involved text messages that were exchanged with respect to gun trafficking and sent the message that there is no inherent right to text in private. A good overview of the case by lawyer Dan Michaluk is here.

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