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Stuart O'Connell

About Stuart O'Connell

Stuart is Lead Counsel at O’Connell Law Group - and works in association with the Firm.

Police Officers & Excessive Force (Part 1)

Police officers are entitled to use force in the execution of their duties if they act on reasonable grounds in doing what they are required or authorized to do and the force used is necessary for that purpose. See section 25, Criminal Code. The Crown has the evidentiary burden of establishing that section 25 of the Code has been met when it relies on the provision to justify the use of force.  The Crown must therefore prove that the officer: (i)             was required or authorized by law to perform the action, that the officer undertook, in the administration or enforcement of the law; (ii)           acted on reasonable grounds in performing the action; and (iii)          did not use unnecessary force. The use of more force than necessary gives rise to both criminal and civil liability. Section 26 of the Criminal Code, which is to be read with section 25, imposes criminal responsibility on those authorized by law to use force where the force used is excessive.  Was the officer acting in execution of her/his duty at the time force was used? The powers and duties of a peace officer emanate from common law and statute. In Ontario, these common law duties have been codified in  sections 42(1) and (3) of the Police Services Act.  Examples of the type of situation in which force may be necessary in the execution of a police duty include (but are not limited to) apprehending a fleeing suspect, preventing a continuation of an offence and protecting the safety of members of the public. Force Likely to Cause Death or Grievous Bodily Harm The Criminal Code has a specific limitation on the degree of force that can be used. The officer cannot use

By |October 5th, 2018|Categories: Stuart O'Connell Criminal Blog|Comments Off on Police Officers & Excessive Force (Part 1)

The Ability of the Police to Make a Breath Demand

Section 254(3) of the Criminal Code authorizes a peace officer to make a demand for breath samplesprovided the officer "has reasonable grounds to believe that a person is committing or at any time within the preceding three hours has committed" the offence of impaired operation or driving ‘over 80’.The failure to meet this standard would mean that there would be no legal authority for obtaining the breath samples and an illegal search or seizure is unreasonable constituting an infringement of s. 8 of the Charter.See R v Collins, 1987 CanLII 84 (SCC). Crown BurdenThe Crown has the burden of proving that reasonable grounds existed for the breath sample demand.R. v. Bush, 2010 ONCA 554, at para. 13; R. v. Haas (2005), 2005 CanLII 26440 (ON CA), 76 O.R. (3d) 737, [2005] O.J. No. 3160 (C.A.), leave to appeal refused [2005] S.C.C.A. No. 423. The Reasonable Grounds Standard (Generally)The standard of reasonable grounds is used to define the point at which the state’s interest in detecting and preventing crime begins to prevail over the individual’s liberty interest in being left alone, namely, at the point where credibly-based probability replaces suspicion.  The threshold of reasonable and probable grounds demands more than establishing merely a reasonable suspicion of the commission of the offence. In short, the threshold requires that there must be a “reasonable probability.” See Hunter v. Southam Inc., 1984 CanLII 33 (SCC); R. v. Debot, at p. 1166; Baron v. Canada, 1993 CanLII 154 (SCC). The requirement of reasonable grounds has both a subjective and objective component. The officer must subjectively have an honest belief that the suspect committed an offence, and that belief must be supported by objective grounds:R. v. Bernshaw, 1995 CanLII 150 (SCC), [1995]

By |September 29th, 2018|Categories: Stuart O'Connell Criminal Blog|Comments Off on The Ability of the Police to Make a Breath Demand

Withdrawing as Counsel for Non-payment of Legal Fees

SummaryA criminal court may exercise its inherent or necessarily implied jurisdiction to control its own process by overseeing lawyer withdrawal. This authority allows the court to require defence counsel who wishes to withdraw because of non-payment of legal fees to continue to represent the accused.  However, refusing to allow counsel to withdraw should truly be a remedy of last resort and should only be relied upon where it is necessary to prevent serious harm to the administration of justice. The Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Cunningham, 2010 SCC 10 sets out a number of factors that courts should consider in determining whether permitting counsel of record to withdraw would cause serious harm to the administration of justice.  These factors—the Supreme Court of Canada tells us—are independent of the solicitor-client relationship and there is no risk of violating solicitor-client privilege when engaging in the analysis.  If a court determines that serious harm would result, withdrawal may be refused. Revealing that the Accused has not paid legal fees Revealing that an accused has not paid his or her fees does not normally touch on the rationale for solicitor-client privilege in the criminal context. R. v. Cunningham, 2010 SCC 10, at para. 27. Disclosure of non-payment of fees in cases where it is unrelated to the merits and will not cause prejudice to the accused is not an exception to solicitor-client privilege.  Rather, non-payment of legal fees in this context does not attract the protection of solicitor-client privilege in the first place.  R. v. Cunningham, 2010 SCC 10, at para. 31. Withdrawal where no adjournment required  If counsel seeks to withdraw far enough in advance of any scheduled proceedings and an adjournment will not be necessary, then

By |August 28th, 2018|Categories: Stuart O'Connell Criminal Blog|Comments Off on Withdrawing as Counsel for Non-payment of Legal Fees

The Essential Elements of a Criminal Offence: the Basics

In R. v. Foster, 2018 ONCA 53, Justice Watt for the Court of Appeal for Ontario provides a useful basic overview of the essential elements of a criminal offence, which I have reprinted below. Every Criminal Offence has an Actus Reus and a Mens Rea Requirement “Expressed in the Latin maxim actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea, it is a fundamental principle of our criminal law that a person may not be convicted of a crime unless the Crown proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the person: i.                 engaged in conduct in circumstances forbidden by the criminal law (the actus reus or external element); and ii.               had a defined state of mind in relation to the prohibited conduct (the mens rea or mental or fault element). The external element or actus reus includes all the elements of the offence except for the mental or fault element. As a result, the external element or actus reus can include: i.                 conduct (act or omission); ii.               circumstances or state(s) of affairs; and iii.              result. Sometimes, this element requires proof that the conduct, which occurred in required circumstances, yielded or caused a certain result. On other occasions, less frequent in their occurrence, proof of conduct alone is sufficient.” The Actus Reus and the Mens Rea Must Coincide “Identifying the starting and ending point of the actus reus of an offence is important for at least two reasons. The first is the substantive requirement that, at some point, the actus reus and mens rea must coincide. See, for example, R. v. Cooper, [1993] 1 S.C.R. 146. The second has to do with procedural issues, such as the time frame of the charge and territorial jurisdiction over the offence. Sometimes,

By |August 16th, 2018|Categories: Stuart O'Connell Criminal Blog|Comments Off on The Essential Elements of a Criminal Offence: the Basics

Probation and Child Pornography Offences

In R. v. Inksetter, the Court of Appeal for Ontario has signalled that while probation may be a component of a sentence for a child pornography offence, probation (even a relatively onerous probation) is very unlikely to reduce what is generally required by imprisonment to satisfy the primary sentencing objectives of deterrence and denunciation.See R. v. Inksetter, 2018 ONCA 474, at para. 20. Denunciation and general deterrence are the primary principles of sentencing for offences involving child pornography: R. v. D.G.F., 2010 ONCA 27 (CanLII), 98 O.R. (3d) 241, at paras. 21-22, 30; R. v. Nisbet, 2011 ONCA 26 (CanLII), [2011] O.J. No. 101, at para. 3; R. v. E.O., 2003 CanLII 2017 (ON CA), [2003] O.J. No. 563, at para. 7; R. v. Stroempl, 1995 CanLII 2283 (ON CA), [1995] O.J. No. 2772, at para. 9. Probation has traditionally been viewed as a rehabilitative sentencing tool. It does not seek to serve the need for denunciation or general deterrence. R. v. Proulx, 2000 SCC 5 (CanLII), [2000] 1 S.C.R. 61, at p. 87. The courts have very few options other than imprisonment to achieve the objectives of denunciation and general deterrence.  R. v. Lacasse, 2015 SCC 64 (CanLII), [2015] 3 S.C.R. 1089, at para. 6. Stuart O’Connell, O’Connell Law Group, www.leadersinlaw.ca (All rights reserved to the author).

By |August 14th, 2018|Categories: Stuart O'Connell Criminal Blog|Comments Off on Probation and Child Pornography Offences

Applications in the Provincial Criminal Court: The Basics

An application is a request to a court to make an order.  They are of two types: pre-trial applications and trial applications. Commencing an application Applications are commenced by serving the opposing parties and any other affected party with a completed Form 1 (along with supporting materials), and then filing the application with proof of service at the court office.   Form 1 is found online at www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/criminal-rules/).In addition to Form 1, an application will typically include an affidavit/s setting out the facts upon which the application is based.  [FN1] Affidavit evidence is by far the most common form of evidence used for applications.  Other types of evidence include an agreed statement of facts, transcripts, and oral testimony.  Oral testimony is usually not required in most pre-trial applications.  How many copies of the Application do I need? Make at least four copies of your application: 1.      A copy for you the Applicant/Counsel to retain. 2.      A copy to be served on the Crown (usually the Crown Office, Ministry of the Attorney General Ontario, which is found at the local courthouse). 3.      A copy to be served on the Trial Coordinator (this copy goes to the application judge); 4.      A copy to be filed at the court office after service on all parties is complete (this copy is appended to the information). 5.      Sometimes an additional copy is required, as any party with an interest in the matter must also be served.  For instance, in a contested application to remove counsel from record, counsel must serve her client, the accused. How to serve an application Service of applications may be made in person, by fax or by email.  Hard copies of the documents served must be filed with

By |August 13th, 2018|Categories: Stuart O'Connell Criminal Blog|Comments Off on Applications in the Provincial Criminal Court: The Basics

Punitive Damages in Civil Trials where there has been no Criminal Penalty

Punitive damages are awarded to a successful civil plaintiff when the defendant’s misconduct is so outrageous that such damages are rationally required to act as a deterrent.Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto et al., [1995] 2 S.C.R. 1130, at para. 197. Non-pecuniary damages may be enough to accomplish the goals of, deterrence denunciation, and punishment. Notwithstanding, the fact that a civil defendant has not been punished criminally for his morally reprehensible behaviour may be relevant to whether (and the extent to which) punitive damages are needed to denounce that behaviour.   Zando v. Ali, 2018 ONCA 680, at para. 24.

By |August 12th, 2018|Categories: Stuart O'Connell Criminal Blog|Comments Off on Punitive Damages in Civil Trials where there has been no Criminal Penalty

Lack of Remorse: When it can Affect Sentence

An accused’s lack of remorse is not ordinarily an aggravating factor on sentencing, as a court cannot punish the accused for failing to plead guilty or for having mounted a defence. R. v. Valentini [1999] O.J. No. 251 (C.A.), at paras. 82, 83; R. v. J.F., 2011 ONCA 220, at para. 84, 105 O.R. (3d) 161; aff’d on other grounds in 2013 SCC 12, [2013] 1 S.C.R. 565. When Lack of Remorse is Relevant Absence of remorse is a relevant factor in sentencing, however, with respect to the issues of rehabilitation and specific deterrence, in that an accused’s absence of remorse may indicate a lack of insight into and a failure to accept responsibility for the crimes committed, and demonstrate a substantial likelihood of future dangerousness. R. v. Shah, 2017 ONCA 872, at paras. 8, 9; R. v. B. P.  (2004), 190 O.A.C. 354 (C.A.), at para. 2; R. v. Valentini, at para. 82; R. v. J.S., 2018 ONCA 675, at para. 84.  Stuart O’Connell, O’Connell Law Group, www.leadersinlaw.ca (All rights reserved to author). 

By |August 2nd, 2018|Categories: Stuart O'Connell Criminal Blog|Comments Off on Lack of Remorse: When it can Affect Sentence

Rights to Counsel: The Role of Police where a Detainee has Problems with Language Comprehension

Section 10(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads:10. Everyone has the right on arrest or detention […]  (b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right… As the Supreme Court held in R. v. Suberu, 2009 SCC 33, [2009] 2 S.C.R. 460, at para. 38, s. 10(b) imposes two duties on the police – an informational duty and an implementational duty. The informational duty requires that the detainee be informed of the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay. The implementational obligation requires the police to provide the detainee with a reasonable opportunity to retain and instruct counsel. The onus lies on the Applicant to demonstrate that his/her right to counsel was violated under s.10(b) of the Charter. Rights to Counsel and the Role of the Police In most cases the police may infer that the detainee understands the rights read to them.  Police do not have a duty to positively ensure that a detainee understands what the rights under s. 10(b) entail. Officers are only required to communicate those rights to the detainee. R. v. Culotta, 2018 ONCA 665, at para. 38. Absent special circumstances indicating that a detainee may not understand the s. 10(b) caution (such as language difficulties or a known or obvious mental disability), police are not required to assure themselves that a detainee fully understands the s. 10(b) caution. R. v. Bartle, [1994] 3 S.C.R. 173, at p. 193;  R. v. Baig, [1987] 2 S.C.R. 537, at p. 540; R. v. Feeney, [1997] 2 S.C.R. 13, at paras. 108-09 per L’Heureux-Dubé (dissenting); R. v. Evans, [1991] 1 S.C.R. 869, at p. 891; R. v. Willier, 2010 SCC 37, [2010] 2

By |July 26th, 2018|Categories: Stuart O'Connell Criminal Blog|Comments Off on Rights to Counsel: The Role of Police where a Detainee has Problems with Language Comprehension

Defence Counsel Fall Outside the Circle of Informer Privilege

Defence counsel do not fall within the “circle” of informer privilege — the group of people who are entitled to access information covered by informer privilege and who are bound by it.Traditionally, this circle is tightly defined and has only included the confidential informer himself or herself, the police, the Crown and the court. R. v. Brassington, 2018 SCC 37, at para. 41; R. v. Barros, [2011] 3 S.C.R. 368, at para. 37.  In all cases where informer privilege applies, disclosure outside the circle requires a showing of “innocence at stake”. R. v. Brassington, at para. 47. Thus, solicitor-client privilege, which protects the client's communications with counsel from disclosure and compulsion, does not provide a basis for that client to communicate information that is otherwise protected from disclosure if it tends to identify a confidential informer. R. v. Brassington, at para. 48. Stuart O’Connell, O’Connell Law Group, www.leadersinlaw.ca (all rights reserved to author).

By |July 24th, 2018|Categories: Stuart O'Connell Criminal Blog|Comments Off on Defence Counsel Fall Outside the Circle of Informer Privilege
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