Supreme Court

Criminal Law


Charging jury

Trial judge conflated actus reus and mens rea of offence

Accused parents were convicted of failing to provide necessaries of life to their young son, who died of meningitis. Majority of Court of Appeal dismissed parents’ appeals. Dissenting judge would have allowed parents’ appeals and ordered new trial. Dissenting judge found, among other things, that jury charge was confusing, misleading, and deficient in describing key element of offence, and that trial judge did not properly instruct jury on fault element or mens rea of offence. Parents appealed. Appeal allowed. Conviction was quashed and new trial was ordered.. Reasons of dissenting judge of Court of Appeal were essentially agreed with. In particular, it was agreed that trial judge conflated actus reus and mens rea of offence and did not sufficiently explain concept of marked departure in way that jury could understand and apply it.

R. v. Stephan (2018), 2018 CarswellAlta 995, 2018 CarswellAlta 996, 2018 SCC 21, 2018 CSC 21, Wagner C.J.C., Abella J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Gascon J., Côté J., and Rowe J. (S.C.C.); reversed (2017), 2017 CarswellAlta 2403, 2017 ABCA 380, Jack Watson J.A., J.D. Bruce McDonald J.A., and Brian O’Ferrall J.A. (Alta. C.A.).

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