Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Inferences at preliminary inquiry

R. v. Cavanagh, 2014 ONCA 251

[5]          This was not a case of failing to consider relevant evidence, but merely a question of assessing the reasonableness of the inferences to be drawn from the evidence as the preliminary inquiry judge is required to do in a circumstantial case. As McLachlin C.J.C. said in R. v. Arcuri, 2001 SCC 54 at paras. 29 and 30:

The question that arises in the case at bar is whether the preliminary inquiry judge's task differs where the defence tenders exculpatory evidence, as is its prerogative under s. 541. In my view, the task is essentially the same, in situations where the defence calls exculpatory evidence, whether it be direct or circumstantial. Where the Crown adduces direct evidence on all the elements of the offence, the case must proceed to trial, regardless of the existence of defence evidence, as by definition the only conclusion that needs to be reached is whether the evidence is true. However, where the Crown's evidence consists of, or includes, circumstantial evidence, the judge must engage in a limited weighing of the whole of the evidence (i.e. including any defence evidence) to determine whether a reasonable jury properly instructed could return a verdict of guilty.

In performing the task of limited weighing, the preliminary inquiry judge does not draw inferences from facts. Nor does she assess credibility. Rather, the judge's task is to determine whether, if the Crown's evidence is believed, it would be reasonable for a properly instructed jury to infer guilt. Thus, this task of "limited weighing" never requires consideration of the inherent reliability of the evidence itself. It should be regarded, instead, as an assessment of the reasonableness of the inferences to be drawn from the circumstantial evidence. [Emphasis added.]

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