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January 2019 Criminal Law Round-up

The sentencing hearing began this month for the case involving the fatal bus crash of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team. The court has heard many victim impact statements from the families of the deceased, which has raised the question of what role victim impact statements should play in the court. Law professor Benjamin Perrin comments that victim impact statements can provide valuable evidence to judges, but should be used with caution. Lawyer Tom Engel, on the other hand, has noted on Twitter that many of the statements made in court are outside of the scope of what the Criminal Code permits.

Issues of mental health in jails were at the forefront of the news at the end of the month. The family of Solemain Faqiri launched a lawsuit for over 14 million dollars against the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the superintendent of the Central East Correctional Centre and individual correctional staff, after he died in custody in December of 2016. Despite being arrested in the midst of a schizophrenic episode, Faqiri was brought to jail and died following an altercation with guards. The story was covered in an episode of the Fifth Estate, which uncovered an eye witness.

This month included Bell Canad's annual "Bell Let's Talk" initiative to raise awareness and reduce stigma about mental health. This year, a group of protesters organized by the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project  challenged Bell to change the Bell Canada-operated phone system at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre which charges exorbitant rates for collect calls and affects the mental health of prisoners there. For a backgrounder on the issue, check out this article about how Bell Canada gets kickbacks from collect calls

Cases:

The Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision in R v. Stipo, which deals with the logs that drug recognition experts keep of their interactions with impaired drivers. These DRE logs were previously not disclosed to defence lawyers, but the court in this case recognized that they ought to be first party disclosure as they a relevant to the expert's credibility. This twitter thread by defence laywer Chris Sewrattan  does a good job of pulling out some of the main points of the case. 

On Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that the powers held by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruely to Animals (OSPCA) violate the Charter. In the case of Bogaerts v. Attorney General of Canada, argued by Ottawa lawyer Kurtis Andrews, the judge found that the OSPCA has police-like functions, however lacks the accountability and oversight of the police. As a result, the government has 12 months to re-write the laws that govern the OSPCA so that they are in compliance with the Charter. The article linked above provides some insight from Camille Labchuk, the executive director of the group Animal Justice, who is pleased that the ruling will provide more substantive laws to strengthen animal welfare.

After spending over four years in solitary confinement in a Thunder Bay jail, the charge of first degree murder against Adam Capay was stayed. The case is still under a publication ban until the appeal period has ended, however the court did release some details to identify that the stay of proceedings was as a result of violations of Capay's Charter rights

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