In secretary, who was one of the Crown’s

In a criminal law case in 1991, William Stinchcombe, a Calgary lawyer, was charged with theft, breach of trust, and fraud. Stinchcombe’s secretary, who was one of the Crown’s witnesses, gave evidence at the preliminary inquiry that affirmed the defence’s position. An RCMP officer later took a statement from her. However, at the trial, the defence was denied disclosure of this statement. When the defence made a request to the judge for the information, it was refused and the accused was later convicted. The Court of Appeal affirmed the convictions without giving reasons. An appeal was made to the supreme court, where it was decided unanimously that the judge was wrong in refusing the application made by the defence. This landmark case had such large repercussions in that it set precedence where the Crown has a duty to provide the defence with all the evidence that could possibly be relevant to the case, regardless of whether or not the Crown actually plans to use that evidence at trial or not, and without respect to whether the evidence is beneficial or harmful to the Crown’s case. This case made the final decision on whether or not the Crown could purposely deny the defence evidence that the Crown found harmful to their case. This means, in effect, that evidence obtained during an investigation is not property of the crown for use in securing a conviction. Though the lower courts may have failed in their duty to provide a fair trial, the final decision of the Canadian Supreme Court rectifies this error by making the right choice, as it is important to give the accused the right to make full answer and defence in order to prevent innocent people from receiving faulty convictions. According to the Crown, Stinchcombe had wrongfully misappropriated property that he held for a client, which led to him being charged with theft, fraud, and breach of trust. During the trial, the Crown counsel decided not to disclose the unfavourable evidence on the supposed ground that the witness was not credible. The defence counsel was only informed of the existence of this evidence, not the content. Upon learning that the crown would not be calling the aforementioned witness, the defence sought an order that either the witness be called or that the crown disclose the contents of the statement to the defence. This was dismissed by the judge as he ruled that under the circumstances there was no obligations on the Crown to disclose the content of the statements.The troubling matter of this case is that the law with respect to the duty of the Crown to disclose such information was not then settled, and as such the prosecution felt no need to assist the defence. Had the defence been given the information, the defense counsel could have possibly tailored its evidence or testimony to conform with the evidence in the Crown’s possession.Regardless, the fact is that justice is better served when issues are addressed on the basis of complete information, and withholding such a statement contrasts with what a criminal prosecutors true role is. It is important to note that a criminal prosecutor does not stand in court to obtain a conviction, but rather to lay before a jury evidence that has been considered by the Crown to be credible and relevant to an alleged crime. They have a duty to see that all available legal proof of the various facts are presented. The notion of “winning” or “losing” should not be applied to a prosecutor unless they have truly failed to obtain a just conclusion. As such, the Crown has an obligation to disclose the information in order to ensure that the trial is fair, instead of suppressing unfavourable testimony in order to secure a conviction.Upon reaching the Supreme Court, the appeal was allowed unanimously, and a new trial was ordered. As justice Sopinka wrote for a unanimous court, “The Crown has a legal duty to disclose all relevant information to the defence. The fruits of the investigation which are in its possession are not the property of the Crown for use in securing a conviction but the property of the public to be used to ensure that justice is done.” There is a fundamental difference in the respective roles of prosecution and defense. Though the prosecution may be a public servant, the defence is still at the liberty to maintain a purely adversarial role to the prosecution, whose sole purpose is to ensure that justice is carried out. Due to this blatant disregard for justice on the part of the prosecution, the Supreme Court allowed a new trial. This case had a drastic impact on the Canadian legal system. Following this case, the Crown became obligated to provide the defence with all the information that could possibly be relevant to the case. With this, the prosecution can no longer withhold evidence for a convenient time, or even withhold inconvenient evidence altogether as was done in this case. Of course, such an obligation on the part of the Crown allows true criminals to tailor their lies to match up with the presented evidence and testimony. As well, while the Crown is obligated to present unfavourable evidence, any such unfavourable testimony may be ignored by the defence. This gives the defence somewhat of an advantage when it comes to legal responsibility, as they are not burdened by the need to bring forward all relevant information.Of course even in making the right choice regarding this case, the Supreme Court justices made a number of assumptions. Justice Sopinka claims that evidence found in the investigation is public property for the purpose of carrying out justice, but this is not always the case. Being that the role of the defence is simply to obtain an acquittal (or at the very least, a lesser sentence), the evidence may be used by the defence counsel to change their evidence and story in order to actually thwart justice, and obtain an acquittal for someone who may not be innocent. In this way, the legal precedence set by this case may have negative consequences.Also, while it may be true that the Crown withheld the information in order to obtain a conviction, that does not mean that Stinchcombe truly was innocent. Justice Sopinka wrongly assumes here that all convictions secured through unfair means are themselves untrue; it is possible that while Stinchcombe may have been prosecuted unethically, he is still guilty. Naturally, it is impossible to design a perfect legal system that can apply to all cases and cannot be used by the guilty to their advantage in any way. Though the guilty may gain an advantage by seeing all the relevant evidence, it is important that those who are innocent also have a chance to mount a defence, even if it may mean aiding a true criminal, the right to a fair trial is guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and therefore the unanimously agreed upon decision is, in the end, indisputable. The findings of the Supreme Court that the Crown has a duty to disclose such information is derived from the right of the accused to make full answer and defence as stated under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Anybody who has criminal charges brought upon them has the right to know the case against them and put forward a defence. This school of thought is more than valid; not only is this a principle of fundamental justice, but this right is also protected by the right to a fair trial under section 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Full answer and defence can mean a number of things, including the right to counsel, the right to examine witnesses, and also the right to full disclosure by the Crown. Procedural Justice seems to apply most to this landmark case. The focus of this case was not on the fate of William Stinchcombe, but rather how the legal system was applied that lead to his conviction. Instead of simply claiming the Crown was under no obligations to supply the defence with the statements, the trial judge should have examined the statements, and then subsequently made a decision regarding the relevancy of the statements. The Supreme Court of Canada later addressed this by examining how the lower court applied the law to this case, and by definitively stating that evidence obtained through investigations is public property, and not ammunition for the prosecution to obtain a conviction.One issue that remains unresolved however, is the fact that only the Crown must provide the defence with relevant information. Any evidence that the defence may come upon is not specified, and the defence may therefore ignore unfavourable evidence in the hopes that it gets forgotten. Obviously, defence attorneys are privately paid, and as such it would be difficult to confine them to the same rules as prosecutors and have them present unfavourable evidence. However, if such a law were passed, then hearings would be even closer to being based on complete information, and as such they would be more just. Even so, this omission is completely appropriate in this case as it would only serve to further complicate such an important decision. Given these points, it is evident that the Supreme Court of Canada made the right choice by granting Stinchcombe’s appeal for a new trial. Being that the defence counsel was unfairly limited in its ability to represent Stinchcombe due to the fact that the Crown had withheld information, he was justly given a new trial regardless of his obvious guilt, leading to the legal precedence that the Crown must provide the defence with all relevant information, regardless of its benefit or presence in the trial.


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