Summary

39131

Her Majesty the Queen v. Éric Deslauriers

(Quebec) (Criminal) (As of Right)

(Publication ban in case) (Sealing order)

Keywords

Criminal law - Criminal law - Evidence - Assessment - Disclosure - Expert evidence - Unreasonable verdict - Whether majority erred in law in holding, without regard for contextual analysis done by trial judge and evidence disclosed, that trial judge should have found that information sought by defence was likely relevant - Whether majority erred in law in holding that verdict was unreasonable even though trial judge’s reasons, for which support was given, did not discredit verdict rendered - Whether majority erred in law in usurping role of trier of fact in assessing credibility and probative value of expert testimony.

Summary

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(PUBLICATION BAN IN CASE) (SEALING ORDER)

In the Court of Québec, the respondent, Éric Deslauriers, was convicted of causing the death of D.H.L. by intentionally discharging a firearm while being reckless as to the life or safety of another, thereby committing manslaughter, an indictable offence provided for in s. 234 of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C 46. The judge ordered a stay of proceedings on the second count, criminal negligence causing death, pursuant to the rule against multiple convictions. Mr. Deslauriers, a police officer with the Sûreté du Québec, acknowledged that he had fired at the victim but argued that he had done so to defend himself. His defences — protection of persons administering the law and self defence — were rejected. A majority of the Quebec Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, set aside the conviction on the first count and the stay of proceedings on the second count, and remitted the matter to the trial court for a new trial on both counts. The majority accepted three of the grounds of appeal raised by Mr. Deslauriers. First, the trial judge had erred in dismissing the motion for disclosure of evidence at the first stage of the regime for the disclosure of information in the possession of third parties. The exclusion of information that was prima facie relevant to proving innocence was a material error which could have infringed Mr. Deslauriers’s right to make full answer and defence and which warranted a new trial. Second, a new trial was warranted because of the factual framework accepted by the trial judge, which seemed inconsistent with the evidence on certain points central to the defence. The judge’s description of the factual framework was unreasonable, and this necessarily affected the assessment of the defences raised. The danger of a miscarriage of justice was therefore real. Finally, the trial judge had erred in finding that it was irrelevant whether the police officer had acted in accordance with what was taught in police academies. The judge’s rejection of the expert testimony had most likely affected her analysis of the prosecution’s evidence and the defences, and this also warranted a new trial. Duval Hesler C.J., dissenting, would have dismissed the appeal, as she was of the view that the trial judge had been correct not to order the disclosure of information and records relating to the victim under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, S.C. 2002, c. 1, and that she had not erred in her factual analysis or her treatment of the expert evidence.