A year in review: the top 10 cases in criminal law for 2014 in Canada.

top criminal law cases 2014 sccApart from the early to mid-80’s when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect and was interpreted by the Courts, the past five years have hosted unequaled change and paradigmatic shifts in Canada’s criminal law, history and news; 2014 is no exception.

Our year ends while peaking at this trend with drastic changes in criminal justice legislation, controversial Supreme Court of Canada judicial appointments (and a successful challenge), factually unprecedented high-profile crimes and investigations, palpable tension (if not disdain) of our courts from Parliament, and sweeping legislative changes affecting us in ways that will only become apparent when police forces come to integrate new powers and investigative techniques.

From a defence lawyer’s point of view, it has been a relentless attack on civil liberties of Canadian citizens, the rights of accused, the presumption of innocence, and respect for the Court system.  It is all too ironic that at the end of the year, Canada’s champion of civil liberties and defender of due process, Eddie Greenspan, passed away peacefully in his sleep while the turmoil of Canada’s law spins in a direction we are unfamiliar with as a country.

To get a small sense of these changes, we have compiled a list of the top 10 most important cases in criminal law in Canada.  It was a judicial year obsessed with privacy, digital evidence, and access to information.  If you’re like me, you’re impatient andneed to know things now.

So, here is the list (with explanations and commentary on the following pages numbered below):

#10 R. v. Steele, 2014 SCC 61 Long term and dangerous offender law – meaning of “serious personal injury offence” – statutory interpretation 
#9 R. v. MacDonald, 2014 SCC 3 Search and seizure – Charter of Rights – Police common law powers of search – possession of a firearm – mens rea
#8 R. v. Taylor, 2014 SCC 50; Right to counsel – Duty of police to facilitate counsel – scene of the accident – exclusion of evidence – Charter of Rights of Freedoms
#7 R. v. Quesnelle, 2014 SCC 46 Disclosure of police occurrences – definition of “record” under s.278 of CCC – obligations of Crown
#6 R. v. Hutchinson. 2014 SCC 19  Sexual assault based upon fraud – essential nature of the act – consent – vitiation of consent – definition of bodily harm
#5 R. v. Sekhon, 2014 SCC 15 Expert evidence – Proper scope and use of expertise at trial – “ultimate issue” testimony
#4 R. v. Summers, 2014 SCC 26  Pre-trial custody – Truth in Sentencing Act – enhanced credit – Charter of Rights and Freedoms
#3 R. v. Hart, 2014 SCC 52 Confessions – Mr. Big technique – evidence and admissibility – Charter of Rights and Freedoms – voluntariness
#2 R. v. Spencer, 2014 SCC 43 Charter of Rights and Freedoms – Search and Seizure – Search Warrants – child pornography – police obtaining subscriber information via IP addresses
#1 R. v. Fearon, 2014 SCC 77 Search and seizure – police powers to search incident to arrest – cell phone searches – privacy rights – Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Click on the pages below for a detailed explanation and commentary for each of these cases…