Sunday, March 27, 2016

Blogging by Judicial Office Holders: The England and Wales Guidance 2012


Senior Presiding Judge                                                                                            Senior President
For England and Wales                                                                                             of Tribunals

Blogging by Judicial Office Holders

This guidance is issued on behalf of the Senior Presiding Judge and the Senior President of Tribunals. It applies to all courts and tribunal judicial office holders in England and Wales, and is effective immediately.


A “blog” (derived from the term “web log”) is a personal journal published on the internet. “Blogging” describes the maintaining of, or adding content to, a blog. Blogs tend to be interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments. They may also contain links to other blogs and websites. For the purpose of this guidance blogging includes publishing material on micro-blogging sites such as Twitter.


Judicial office holders should be acutely aware of the need to conduct themselves, both in and out of court, in such a way as to maintain public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.

Blogging by members of the judiciary is not prohibited. However, judicial office holders who blog (or who post comments on other people’s blogs) must not identify themselves as members of the judiciary. They must also avoid expressing opinions which, were it to become known that they hold judicial office, could damage public confidence in their own impartiality or in the judiciary in general.

The above guidance also applies to blogs which purport to be anonymous. This is because it is impossible for somebody who blogs anonymously to guarantee that his or her identity cannot be discovered.

Judicial office holders who maintain blogs must adhere to this guidance and should remove any existing content which conflicts with it forthwith. Failure to do so could ultimately result in disciplinary action. It is also recommended that all judicial office holders familiarise themselves with the new IT and Information Security Guidance which will be available shortly.

August 2012

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Understanding and Navigating The Supreme Court's Decision in Blencoe: Facts Always Matter

     Several years ago I learned a very significant lesson with respect to appellate advocacy that has stayed with me to this day.  Brian Brock, Q.C., my then articling principal, asked me to review and comment on a factum he was working on in a judicial review application involving the decision of an Adjudicator appointed under the Employment Standards Act. In our re-working of the original factum Mr. Brock got me to focus on the facts in the record.  He said to me, "Ernest, facts always matter".  As simple as it may seem, I must thank Mr. Brock for providing me with that important lesson on my journey as an advocate.

     In the past few months I have written extensively about the Supreme Court of Canada's leading decision Blencoe  v.  B.C. Human Rights Commission [2000] 2 S.C.R. 307.  This is the leading authority with respect to when and how delay may render an administrative hearing an abuse of process requiring a remedy.  I have shown how various administrative tribunals including the Law Society Tribunal - both at the Hearing Panel level and the Appeal level are grappling with what is a very important public interest legal issue.  Indeed, just as recently as a few weeks ago our Divisional Court overturned a decision of the Law Society Tribunal Appeal Panel which reversed a stay ordered by a Hearing Panel on the basis of Blencoe supra.

     As state actors and regulators continue to be taxed with declining financial and other resources to undertake their statutory duties, the ruling in Blencoe supra and its proper application to the multitude of stay applications which have and will likely continue to come for adjudication in the future make it a very significant legal  authority.  In order to properly apply the principles in Blencoe supra it is imperative that courts, adjudicators, lawyers and even litigants have a sound understanding of the underlying facts of that case.  Courts, tribunals and counsel are quick to latch onto the following words from the majority ruling without an appreciation of the actual facts of the case:  ..."However, delay without more, will not warrant a stay of proceedings as an abuse of process at common law.  There must be proof of significant prejudice which results from an unacceptable delay.  Here, the respondent's ability to have a fair hearing has not been compromised.  Proof of prejudice has not been demonstrated to be of sufficient magnitude to impact on the fairness of the hearing."  I will delineate the salient facts from the Blencoe decision which are often glossed over when courts, tribunals and counsel deal with this very significant public law decision.

The Background Facts from Blencoe supra:

- In March 1995, while serving as a minister in the Government of British Columbia, the respondent was accused by one of his assistants of sexual harassment
- A month later, the Premier removed Blencoe from the NDP caucus
- In July and August of 1995 two complaints alleging sexual harassment were filed with the B.C. Human Rights Commission against Blence
- The complaints centered on acts taking place between March 1993 and March 1995
- Mr. Blencoe was informed of the first complaint in July 1995 and the second in September, 1995
- Following the Commission's investigation hearings were scheduled in March 1998 - 30 months after the initial complaints were filed( 2.5 years)
- Following the allegations against Mr. Blencoe media attention was intense
- Mr. Blencoe suffered from severe depression. He did not stand for re-election n 1996
- Mr. Blencoe commenced judicial review proceedings in November 1997 to have the proceedings stayed
- Mr. Blencoe asserted that the Commission had lost jurisdiction due to the unreasonable delay in processing the complaints.  In addition, he asserted that the delay caused serious prejudice to him and his family which amounted to an abuse of process and a denial of natural justice.

The Key and Limiting Facts:

- Blencoe raised delay seeking a stay to prohibit the hearing from taking place
- The hearing was scheduled for March 1998 and Mr. Blencoe brought his application for a stay in November 1997
- The B.C. Court of Appeal stayed the proceedings on account of the delay
- The majority(5) of the Supreme Court of Canada allowed the appeal and vacated the stay but ordered costs to Mr. Blencoe and the complainants
- The minority(4) allowed the appeal but ordered and expedited hearing and costs to Mr. Blencoe at the Supreme Court of Canada and through out

Implications for Courts and Tribunals:

     Courts, tribunals and counsel involved in advocating or adjudicating claims grounded in abuse of process founded on Blencoe surpra must pay careful attention to the fact that Blencoe involved a mere 2.5 years of delay between notice of the allegations and scheduled hearing dates and five years between the first alleged occurence and the scheduled start of the hearing.  Most significantly it must not be forgotten that the application in Blencoe was to prevent the hearing from taking place. This is very significant with respect to the emerging Blencoe test with respect to when proceedings ought to be stayed.

     Where the hearing has actually taken place courts and tribunals alike must be very careful not to succumb to the temptation to improperly conclude that there has "in fact" been no prejudice to the moving party's rights to a fair and impartial hearing on account of the delay.  It should be clear that this finding can not be made in a vacume but requires careful study of the whole of the evidence to evaluate credibility and reliability of the evidence. Hence when the tribunal adopts a "wait and see approach" to determine whether delay actually compromised the fairness of the hearing it must actually complete this task.

     Indeed, the current conventional wisdom in judicial review against bifurcating administrative proceedings means that Mr. Blencoe's application for judicial review would be dismissed by the Superior Court as premature. This means that it is for the first instance tribunal to grapple with the issue of - was the delay inordinate - did the delay cause prejudice to; 1. the hearing process; 2. the moving party in terms of adverse impact on health or reputation; 3.  adverse impact to the administration of justice.  It is difficult to imagine grounds for not staying any legal proceeding where relevant evidence has admittedly not been preserved and the passage of time has admittedly impacted the recollection of witnesses on material points in a case.  It would appear that the more challenging issue for courts and administrative tribunals on the Blencoe question are points 2 and 3 above. What exactly is the level of prejudice which will bring an applicant to the point of entitlement to a remedy and to bring the administration of justice into disrepute is much less clear than the first requirement.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ghomeshi Ruling: Justice Horkins Upholds the Fundamental Principle that Evidence Must by Subjected to an Assessment of Credibility and Reliability


CITATION:       R. v. Ghomeshi, 2016 ONCJ 155
Text Box: 2016 ONCJ 155 (CanLII)DATE: 2016·03·24 COURT FILE  No.:  Toronto  4817 998 15-75006437

B E T W  E E N  :


—  AND   —


Before  Justice  William B. Horkins
Heard on February 1 through February 11, 2016 Reasons   for Judgment  released   on March  24, 2016

Michael Callaghan and Corie Langdon .................................. counsel for the Crown Marie  Henein, Danielle Robataille  and Samuel Walker ..... counsel for the  accused

HORKINS,  W. B., J.:


[1]  Jian  Ghomeshi  is  charged  with five  criminal  offences  relating  to  four  separate events, involving  three  different  complainants. Two  of  the  complainants are shielded  from identification  and  so  I  refer  to  the  complainant  in counts  1 and  2 by  the  initials  L.R.  and  the  complainant  in count  5 by the  initials S.D.

[2]      The   charges  with  respect  to  L.R.  are  two  counts  of  sexual  assault.  The  first assault is  alleged  to  have  occurred  between  December  1st  and  31st2002 and  the  second  assault   on January  2nd, 2003.
[3] The charges with respect to  Lucy  DeCoutere  are  sexual  assault  and  overcoming  resistance  to  sexual  assault  by  choking.  These  events  were    originally

NOTE: This judgment is under  a publication  ban  described in  the  WARNING  page(s)  at  the start of this document. If the WARNING page(s)  is  (are)  missing,  please  contact  the court office.

alleged to have occurred between  the  27th  of  June  and  the  2nd  of  July  2003  but  this has  since  been  amended  to  conform  to  the  evidence  that the  events  occurred between   the  4th  and 6th  of July  2003.
Text Box: 2016 ONCJ 155 (CanLII)[4]  The   charge  with   respect  to   S.D.   is  sexual  assault.   This  was  originally alleged to have occurred between  the  15th  and  20th  of  July  2003.  This  has  now  been amended to conform  to  the  evidence  that  the  event  occurred  between  the  15th   of July  and the  2nd  of August  2003.
The  Elements   of the Offences

[5] A criminal "assault"  is  an  intentional  application  of  force  to  the  person  of another without  that  person’s  consent.  "sexual  assault"  is  an  assault  committed  in sexual circumstances  such  that the  sexual  integrity  of  the  victim  is  violated. The test to determine if an assault is "sexual" is an objective one.  This  test  asks  whether the sexual nature of the  contact  would  be  apparent  to  reasonable  person when viewed in light of all of the circumstances. The actual intent  of  the  accused is only one factor amongst many  that  may  determine  if  the  conduct  involved   is "sexual".

[6] "Sexual assault" as  defined  in  our  Criminal  Code  covers  very  broad  spectrum of offensive activity; everything from an uninvited sexual  touching  to  a brutal rape  falls  under  the  one  title  of  "sexual  assault".  The  events  as  described  by each of the complainants, taken at face  value,  fall  within  this  broad  definition.  Each allegation  of  violence  occurred in an intimate    situation.

[7]  With  respect   to   the   complainant   Lucy   DeCoutere,   there  is  an  added charge of choking with intent to overcome resistance.  This  offence  is  committed when a perpetrator attempts to choke the victim with the intent of facilitating the commission  of  an offence;  in this  instance,  a sexual  assault.

Text Box: 2016 ONCJ 155 (CanLII)[11] Each charge presented against  Mr.  Ghomeshi  is  based  entirely  on  the  evidence of  the  complainant. Given  the  nature  of  the  allegations this  is  not unusual or surprising;  however  it  is  significant  because,  as  result,  the  judgment of this Court depends entirely on an assessment  of  the  credibility  and  the  reliability  of  each complainant  as a  witness.

[92] In  her  email  correspondence  with one   of  the   other   complainants, exchanged after  the  charges  were  laid,  Ms.  DeCoutere   expressed   strong animosity towards Mr. Ghomeshi.  She  said  she  wanted  to  see  that  Mr.  Ghomeshi was "fucking  decimated" and stated, "the  guy's shit show, time to flush"; and then very bluntly just, 
"Fuck Ghomeshi."

Text Box: 2016 ONCJ 155 (CanLII)[93] All  of  the  extreme  animosity  expressed since  going  public  with her  complaint in 2014 stands in stark contrast to the flirtatious correspondence and interactions of 2003 and  2004,  words  and  actions  that are  preserved  in  the  emails  and  photographs   she  says she  forgot about.

[94] Let me emphasize strongly, it is the  suppression  of  evidence  and  the  deceptions  maintained  under  oath that drive  my  concerns  with  the  reliability  of this witness, not necessarily her  undetermined  motivations for  doing  so.  It  is difficult to  have  trust  in  a  witness  who  engages  in  the  selective withholding relevant   information.

Possible   Collusion

[107]  S.D.  said  that her  decision  to  come  forward  was  inspired  by  others coming forward  in  2014.  She  consumed  the  media  reports  and  spoke  to  others  for about six weeks  after  the  “Ghomeshi  Scandal”  broke  in  the  media.  Although  she initially testified  that  she  and  Ms.  DeCoutere  never  discussed  the  details  of her  experience  prior  to  her  police   interview,   in  cross-examination  she  admitted that  in fact she  had.

[108] I am  alert  to  the  danger  that some of  this  outside  influence  and  information may have  been  imported  into her   own  admittedly   imprecise recollection  of her  experience  with  Mr.  Ghomeshi.

[109]  The  extreme  dedication  to  bringing  down  Mr.  Ghomeshi  is  evidenced  vividly in the email correspondence between S.D. and Ms. DeCoutere. Between October 29, 2014 and September 2015, S.D. and Ms. DeCoutere exchanged approximately 5,000 messages. While this anger and this  animus  may  simply reflect the legitimate feelings of victims of abuse,  it  also  raises  the  need  for  the  Court  to  proceed  with caution.  Ms.  DeCoutere  and  S.D.  considered  themselves  to be a “team”  and  the goal  was  to bring down  Mr.    Ghomeshi.

[110] The team bond between  Ms.  DeCoutere  and  S.D.  was  strong.  They discussed witnesses, court dates and  meetings with the  prosecution.  They  described their partnership as being “insta sisters”. They shared a publicist.  They initially shared the same lawyer. They spoke of together building a “Jenga  Tower”  against Mr. Ghomeshi. They  expressed  their  top  priority  in  the  crude  vernacular  that they sometimes employed, to “sink the prick,… ‘cause he’s  a fucking piece of  shit.”

Similar Act Evidence

[127]  Similar  act  evidence  is  presumptively  inadmissible.  Evidence  of  an accused's alleged propensity  to  commit  the  particular  type  of  crime  with  which  he is charged with is inadmissible. The Crown expressly agreed that each complaint contained in the Information before the  Court  must  be  determined  on  its  own merits.

[131] There is no legal  bar  to  convicting  on  the  uncorroborated  evidence  of  single witness. However, one of  the  challenges  for  the  prosecution  in  this  case  is that the allegations  against  Mr.  Ghomeshi  are  supported  by  nothing  in  addition  to the complainant’s word. There is no other evidence to  look  to  determine  the  truth. There is no tangible  evidence.  There is  no  DNA.  There  is  no  "smoking  gun". There is only the sworn evidence of each complainant, standing on its own, to be measured against  very exacting  standard  of proof.  This   highlights   the importance of the assessment of the credibility and the reliability  and  the  overall  quality,  of that  evidence.

[133]  Ultimately  my  assessment  of  each  of  the  counts   against  the   accused turns  entirely  on  the  assessment  of the  reliability and  credibility  of the complainant,  when  measured against  the  Crown’s  burden  of  proof.  With  respect to each charge, the  only necessary  determination  is  simply this:  Does  the  evidence  have  sufficient  quality  and  force  to  establish  the  accused’s  guilt  beyond a reasonable  doubt?

[135] As I have stated more than once, the  courts  must  be  very  cautious  in  assessing the evidence  of  complainants in  sexual  assault and  abuse  cases.  Courts must guard against applying false stereotypes concerning the  expected  conduct of complainants. I have a firm understanding that the reasonableness of  reactive human behaviour in the dynamics of a relationship can be variable and unpredictable.  However,   the  twists  and  turns of the complainants’ evidence in this 
trial, illustrate the need to be vigilant in avoiding the  equally  dangerous  false assumption that sexual  assault complainants  are  always  truthful.  Each  individual  and each unique factual scenario must be assessed according to  their  own  particular  circumstances.

Text Box: 2016 ONCJ 155 (CanLII)[136] Each complainant  in  this  case  engaged  in  conduct  regarding  Mr.  Ghomeshi, after the fact,  which  seems  out  of  harmony  with the  assaultive  behaviour ascribed to him. In many instances, their  conduct  and  comments  were  even inconsistent with the level of animus  exhibited  by  each  of  them,  both  at  the  time and then years later. In a  case  that  is  entirely  dependent  on the reliability  of their evidence standing alone, these are  factors  that cause  me  considerable difficulty  when  asked  to accept  their  evidence  at full value.

[137] Each complainant was confronted with volume of  evidence  that  was contrary to their prior sworn statements and  their  evidence  in-chief.  Each complainant demonstrated,  to  some  degree,  willingness  to  ignore  their  oath  to  tell the truth on more than one  occasion.  It is this  aspect  of  their  evidence that is  most  troubling   to the Court.

[138]  The  success  of  this  prosecution  depended  entirely  on  the  Court  being  able to accept each complainant as a sincere,  honest  and  accurate  witness.  Each complainant was revealed at trial  to  be  lacking  in  these  important  attributes. The evidence of each complainant suffered not just from inconsistencies and questionable   behaviour,  but  was  tainted  by  outright deception.

[139] The  harsh  reality  is  that  once  a  witness  has  been  shown  to be deceptive and manipulative in giving their evidence,  that  witness  can  no  longer expect  the  Court to consider them to be a trusted source  of  the  truth.  am  forced  to  conclude that it is impossible  for  the  Court  to  have  sufficient faith  in  the reliability  or sincerity  of  these  complainants. Put  simply,  the  volume  of  serious  deficiencies  in the  evidence  leaves  the  Court  with  a reasonable  doubt.

[141] I have no  hesitation  in  concluding  that  the  quality  of  the  evidence  in  this case is incapable  of  displacing  the  presumption  of  innocence.  The  evidence  fails  to  prove  the  allegations beyond  a reasonable doubt.


The court  hearing  this  matter  directs  that  the  following  notice  be  attached  to the  file:
Text Box: 2016 ONCJ 155 (CanLII)A non-publication and non-broadcast order in this proceeding  has  been  issued under subsection 486.4(1) of the Criminal Code. This subsection  and subsection 486.6(1) of the  Criminal  Code,  which is  concerned  with the consequence of failure to comply with an  order  made  under  subsection  486.4(1),  read  as follows:
486.4 Order restricting publication — sexual offences.—(1) Subject to subsection (2), the presiding judge or justice may make an order directing that any information that could identify the complainant or a witness shall not be published in any document or broadcast or transmitted in any way, in proceedings in respect of
(a)     any of the following offences:
(i)    an offence  under  section 151,  152,  153,  153.1,  155,  159, 160,
162,  163.1, 170,  171,  172,  172.1, 173,  210, 211, 212, 213, 271,
272, 273, 279.01,  279.02, 279.03, 346 or 347,
(ii)     an offence under section 144 (rape), 145 (attempt to  commit rape), 149 (indecent  assault on female),  156 (indecent assault on male) or 245 (common assault) or subsection 246(1) (assault with intent) of the Criminal Code, chapter C-34 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1970,  as it read immediately before January 4, 1983, or
(iii)     an offence under subsection 146(1) (sexual intercourse with a female under 14) or (2) (sexual intercourse  with  a  female between 14 and 16) or section 151 (seduction of a  female between 16 and 18), 153 (sexual intercourse with step- daughter),  155  (buggery  or  bestiality),  157  (gross  indecency),
166 (parent or guardian procuring defilement) or 167 (householder permitting defilement) of the Criminal Codechapter C-34 of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1970, as it read immediately before January  1, 1988; or
(b)     two or more offences being dealt with in the same proceeding, at least one of which is an offence referred to in any of subparagraphs (a)(i) to (iii).
(2)    Mandatory order on application.In proceedings in respect of  the  of- fences referred  to in paragraph  (1)(a) or (b), the presiding judge or justice shall
(a)     at the first reasonable opportunity, inform any witness under the age of eighteen years and the complainant of the right to make an application for the order; and
(b)     on application made by the complainant, the prosecutor or any such witness, make the order.
.    .   .

486.6 Offence.—(1) Every person who fails to comply  with an order  made under subsection 486.4(1), (2) or (3) or 486.5(1) or (2) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.