We tend to think of Canadians as such
softies progressives. They have universal health care. They allow same-sex marriage. They don’t have the death penalty, and their criminal justice system is kinder and gentler than ours.
At least most of the time. Sometimes individual judges go off the reservation. Last year, a judge in Canada instructed a jury “to retire to the jury room… and then to return to the court with a verdict of guilty.”
Now we get this story, via Criminal Review, a Canadian criminal law blog:
The accused had been charged with robbery and abduction of a child after hijacking and then driving off in the complainant’s car with the complainant’s child still strapped in the back seat. Apparently the trial judge thought this was enough to demonstrate the offences proven “as a matter of law.”
Not surprisingly, the appellate court saw things a little differently. From their opinion, ordering a new trial:
After the trial judge charged the jury, the jury returned with a question. It could be inferred from the jury’s question that they were concerned that [defendant] Maharaj was not aware of the baby in the car and that he did not have the requisite intention to commit the offences of abduction. However, the trial judge instructed them that “intention is proven,” thereby removing this element of the offence from their consideration.
Trial by jury isn’t the only way to run a criminal justice system. But if you’re going to bother with a jury, and drag citizens’ asses into court for it, you might as well give them something to do while over there (besides the crossword).
R. v. Maharaj [CriminalReview.ca]
R. v. Maharaj [Court of Appeal for Ontario]
Earlier: Criminal Justice, Canadian Style