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October Criminal Law Round-up

Here are this month's headlines and cases from the world of criminal law:

News:

In big legal news, Newfoundlander Malcolm Rowe was nominated to the Supreme Court of Canada. He was sworn in this morning and put straight to work on Dennis Oland's bail pending appeal (see below). His appointment is being considered a win for regional representation, but has left some wondering about diversity on the bench. This op-ed by lawyer Ranjand Agarwal argued that there is still need for a minority or Indigenous judge on the highest court in the land.

Perhaps the biggest story in terms of conditions in jails came from a meeting of Ontario Human Right's Commissioner Renu Mandhane, when she met with Adam Capay, a young Indigenous man who has been kept in solitary confinement for over 4 years while awaiting trial. The outcry has reached national proportions, including an editorial from the Globe and Mail condemning Mr. Capay's treatment. I found Michael Enright's essay on the Sunday Edition to be a poignant encapsulation of this horrific story.

In a much less public, but still important story, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybold announced proposed legislation that would restore judicial discretion in imposing the victim fine surcharge. Presently, when someone is convicted of an offence, they automatically pay a fine of $100 per charge (if by summary conviction). The new law would allow judges to waive that fee if it would cause an individual undue hardship.

Ottawa Police released a study on race and traffic stops, findings that Middle Eastern and black drivers are stopped at disproportionate rates. Read the full study here or just skip straight to Michael Spratt's commentary on the persistent issues with systemic racism in policing.

And in the spirit of Halloween, check out Toronto defence lawyer Sean Robichaud's take on killer clowns.

Cases:

Dennis Oland's conviction for the murder of his father was overturned and a new trial ordered. The New Brunswick Court of Appeal found that the trial judge had not properly cautioned the jury about considering a piece of information provided by Oland in his police interview about the colour of his jacket. Find the full decision here.

The Supreme Court released its decision in R v. Anthony-Cook, clarifying how judges should treat joint positions in sentencing. The court found that generally a judge should follow a joint recommendation on sentence unless it would bring the administration of justice into disrepute. You can see my overview of it here.

Ontario's Court of Appeal found in R v. Duncan that harsh conditions in pre-sentence custody can warrant credit for time spend at more than 1.5 to 1. The court must consider both the conditions in custody and how they affect the accused person.

Happy Halloween!

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