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January 2017 Criminal Law Round-up

espite the overwhelming barrage of news coming from the U.S., there have been plenty of important cases and stories in criminal law here in Canada.

News:

Toronto citizen Waseed Khan filmed the arrest and tasing of a man by the Toronto Police and was told by police that they would seize his phone and that he was going to get HIV from the arrestee spitting in his face. Mr. Khan has filed a complaint with the Ontario Independent Police Review Director to investigate the officer's behaviour. The case has also raised questions of a citizen's right to film police (spoiler: as long as you aren't inferring, you're permitted) and maybe, as argued by Shantal Otchere, it's your civic duty.

In Ottawa, six months after the death of Abdiraham Abdi, the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition is continuing to press the Ottawa Police to review their own diversity and race relations. They met with the Ottawa Police with a call for an independent third party audit of the diversity of the Ottawa Police Force. The Ottawa Police has plans for an internal review, and has not committed to an external audit. Meanwhile, the SIU continues to investigating the case. (And in happier news, the Coalition was awarded the 2017 Black History Ottawa Community Builder Award for Community Leadership.)

In the face of a deficit and shrinking services, Ontario's Attorney General has ordered an audit of Legal Aid Ontario. The cuts to Legal Aid will have big impacts on the courts and access to justice, and as this editorial from the Toronto Star concludes, the answers provided to the audit "cannot come soon enough."

Cases:

A number of Charter challenges to the right to have a right without undue delay have been heard in the courts. In Ottawa, a youth whose charge of sexual assault was stayed as a result of a 21 month delay (R v. J.M. ). A court in Toronto also ordered a stay in the matter of R v. Keyes, where a possession of child pornography took 23 months to get to trial. As I mentioned in my post about delay in the courts, a number of these cases are being appealed, so we will see how the higher courts deal with this ongoing issue.

In the case of Walters v. Ontario, the Ontario Court of Appeal found that jail officials were liable for the injuries caused to an inmate in a beating because they were negligent in housing him with a rival gang member.

Ontario's court of Appeal also considered whether an adult sentence was appropriate for the young persons who were convicted of the murder of Tyrone Bracken in 2010. In R v. M.W. the court found that in this case, a youth sentence, including the Intensive Rehabilitation Custody Supervision program (IRCS) would be sufficient to hold the individuals accountable. Brock Jones (who represented the Crown on this matter) provides a succinct overview of the decision here.

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