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Criminal Law Case Analysis: Review

Majority Decision of Supreme Court

Two of the three presiding judges of appeal dissented with the ruling that had denied the accused an appeal. The first judge argued that leaving the ‘defense of provocation’ with the jury was inappropriate without proper judicial instruction. Additionally, the appeals judge said that the events at the parking lot of the building where the wife worked amounted to insults because the accused did not initially anticipate the altercation, who had sought his wife’s audience alone. The second dissenting judge’s argument was similar to the first judge and tried to clarify the fact that the trial judge should have explained the objective and the subjective elements of ‘defense of provocation’ to the jury with proper judicial instructions before they made the decision (Supreme Court of Canada).

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Issues and Principles of Law

A Trial Judge found the accused guilty of second-degree murder of his wife’s lover. The accused appealed against the decision with the aim of reducing the sentence to manslaughter. The main issue in this case surrounded the ‘defense of provocation’ by the accused. The pertinent question was whether that defense warranted an appeal that the Trial Judge denied. According to Section 232 of the Criminal Code, a judge can uphold ‘defense of provocation’ if the objective and subjective elements’ tests are satisfied (Department of Justice). In the Trial Judge’s ruling, the judge left the defense of provocation in the hands of the jury. Additionally, he did not instruct the jury judicially and properly on the tenets of ‘defense of provocation’ as provided by Section 232 of the Criminal Code. Provisions of this section raised the following questions

  • Did the murder amount to wrongful act of provocation?
  • Did the provocation deprive the accused of power of self-control leading to the act?

Because these were questions of fact, the accused had a right under Canadian Law to appeal the ruling by the Trial Judge at an appeal court (Supreme Court of Canada). The Criminal Code describes the two elements (objective and subjective) and their tests in order to arrive at the truth. However, the principle pertaining to provocation had to have sufficient evidence to convince the jury. The judge did not advise the jury appropriately to make that decision.

The objective element principle interrogates the ordinary person in relation to claims of insult or a wrongful act from a victim of an ensuing heinous action. This provision requires the history of the accused, the relationship between the victim and the accused, and the application of the situation to an ‘ordinary person’. The subjective principle looks into the ensuing situation in relation to the alluded insults. It must be a sudden, hard-to-control impulse, which the accused regrets immediately. The latter, would have been disputed since the accused had carried a gun and had met the lover in previous occasions. However, the fact that the accused had sought the audience of his wife only, and did not shoot the victim until he was relentlessly provoked may support the subjective element. This was for the jury to decide. The objective element test entails looking at the insult and determining whether an ordinary person would lose control faced by such insults. The trial judge should collect evidence of insults and allow the jury to asses them and make a decision (Supreme Court of Canada).

Minority Decision of Supreme Court

The mystery surrounding the case informed the judge’s argument to contrary. Citing Director of Public Prosecutions v. Camplin, [1978], the judge said that this case lacked sufficient evidence. Hence, as opposed to the situation where the accused hit the victim with a frying pan leading to death in the above case, the extent of provocation in this case was hard to prove. Hence, the trial judge was right to give his ruling, as the jury would not have made any difference. The judge further argues that the objective element test and subjective element test were shrouded in many ‘would-haves’ to be factually reliable in this case (Supreme Court of Canada). For example, the appeal judge questioned the defendant’s decision to carry a gun if he did not intend to murder the wife or the wife’s lover. It is also unclear how the victim knew that the accused and his wife were in the parking lot of the building. Additionally, the altercation and insults that followed the wife’s assurance to the victim that the gun was not loaded seems to be information the accused passed on to the wife to hide his intention. This way, the victim would get embroiled in insults and the accused will shoot him, and invoke the defense of provocation in court. Al these factors made one of the judges to uphold the ruling of the Trial Judge to deny the victim an appeal (Supreme Court of Canada).

Comparison with Drummondville Case

The Drummondville case involved parents who had refused to take their kids to an educational program in Quebec. Though it was not a graduation requirement, it was mandatory because the program taught children a number of religious and life values. The parents were of the view that this program violated the rights of the kids and parents to instill religious and moral principles they wished upon their children (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada). They wanted to exempt their kids from the program and to have the court rule that it was not a mandatory program. The court ruled that this program did not contravene any rights of either the parents or their children. Further, the court argued that if the parents wanted to instill other religious beliefs to the children they were free to do so (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada).

The case above and R. v. Thibert, [1996] were decide by the court of appeal. This is because one was touching on issues that related to public interest (Criminal Law Dictionary). The education program (Ethics and Religious Culture, ERC) was mandatory to all Québécois children (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada). Hence, a decision on this issue would touch the lives of many kids. On the other hand, the case of R. v. Thibert, [1996] raised major issues that combined facts and law (Supreme Court of Canada). These two are examples of jurisprudence that the supreme court of Canada has in the improvement and growth of the Canadian society. In both cases, the Supreme Court does not arrive at unilateral decisions. The three-judge panel does not unanimously agree because one member dissents, which is legally allowed in the Canadian Judicial system. In such a case, the majority takes the day and both sides give a detailed and reasoned out coverage of their decision (Supreme Court of Canada).

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Works Cited

Criminal Law Dictionary. Canada Criminal Code: A History. 2012. Web.

Department of Justice. Criminal Code. 2012. Web.

Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Case Summary. 2012. Web.

Supreme Court of Canada. About the Court: Role of the Court. 2012. Web.

Supreme Court of Canada. Judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada. 2012. Web.

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