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DEFENCES - Mistake of fact

Monday, January 13, 2020 @ 8:32 AM  


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Appeal by Smyth from his conviction for obstruction of justice. The appellant, a police officer, issued four traffic tickets to Husaini, including a ticket for driving through a red light. The dashcam recorder on Husaini’s vehicle showed he drove through a green light. Husaini brought the dashcam recording to the attention of the authorities and all four tickets were withdrawn. The appellant testified at trial that he believed at the time he issued the ticket Husaini drove through a red light but after seeing the video he realized he was mistaken. The trial judge accepted the appellant was not out to get Husaini and acted professionally but did not accept that the appellant made a mistake as to the colour of Husaini’s light.

HELD: Appeal allowed; new trial ordered. The trial judge erred by failing to find the appellant specifically intended to obstruct justice. He failed to consider the evidence that supported a lack of intent to obstruct justice and explain why he did not find it persuasive. The trial judge’s reasons respecting the colour of the light, without more, did not equate to wilfully obstructing justice by knowingly issuing a ticket for which there were no reasonable grounds. The trial judge failed to properly consider the appellant’s defence of mistake in that he did not explain why he was not left in a reasonable doubt by it.

R. v. Smyth, [2019] N.J. No. 349, Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal, D.E. Fry C.J.N.L. and L.R. Hoegg and W.H. Goodridge JJ.A., November 12, 2019. Digest No. TLD-January132020001