Her Majesty the Queen v. Awet Mehari

(Saskatchewan) (Criminal) (As of Right)


Criminal law - Evidence, Assessment - Criminal law - Evidence - Assessment - Level of scrutiny - Whether the Court of Appeal erred by finding the trial judge applied a different level of scrutiny to the evidence of the accused than was applied to the evidence of the complainant. .


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Following a trial by a judge sitting without a jury, the respondent, Awet Mehari was convicted of sexual assault. On appeal before the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, Mr. Mehari argued that the trial judge made several errors related to admissibility and assessment of the evidence, failed to consider relevant defences, and rendered an unreasonable verdict. A majority of the Court of Appeal allowed Mr. Mehari’s appeal, quashed the conviction and ordered a new trial. In the majority’s view, the trial judge erred by applying a more stringent level of scrutiny to Mr. Mehari’s evidence than she applied to the complainant’s evidence. Such error meant that Mr. Mehari did not have a fair trial and, therefore, a new trial was warranted. As this issue was dispositive of the appeal, the majority only addressed one other ground of appeal relating to the reasonableness of the verdict. It found that it could not enter an acquittal on this ground as Mr. Mehari did not convince the majority that the trial judge’s conclusions could not be supported on a reasonable view of the evidence. Leurer J.A., dissenting, would have dismissed the appeal. He rejected Mr. Mehari’s six grounds of appeal. In his view, the trial judge did not apply a different level of scrutiny to the evidence of the accused than was applied to the evidence of the complainant: the trial judge fulfilled her legal duty of applying even scrutiny to all of the evidence she received. None of the examples offered by Mr. Mehari provided the type of conclusive evidence that the case law demands in order to say that the trial judge in this case actually applied a different level of scrutiny to his evidence than to the evidence of the Crown. For the reasons given by the majority, the dissenting judge also rejected Mr. Mehari’s argument that the verdict was unreasonable.