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PROCEDURE - Trial judge's duties - Assessing credibility of witnesses

Monday, April 17, 2017 @ 9:53 AM  


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Appeal by the accused, DP, from a conviction for three counts of sexual assault and related offences. In 2013, the complainant disclosed to police that he was sexually abused by his stepfather, the accused, eight years earlier when he was nine or ten years of age. The accused described incidents of forced fellatio and physical violence. At trial, the accused testified and acknowledged a turbulent relationship with the complainant's mother. The accused testified that the complainant was a difficult child with severe behavioural issues directed toward his younger siblings. The accused conceded using physical measures to discipline the complainant on two occasions. The trial judge accepted the complainant's evidence and entered a conviction. The accused appealed.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The trial judge's credibility assessment regarding the complainant's evidence did not give rise to an unreasonable verdict despite the complainant's criminal history, drug use, and past dishonesty with the authorities. The complainant attributed his negative background to the mistreatment by the accused. A proper appreciation of the complainant's background did not inevitably support a conclusion that the allegations of sexual abuse were not credible. The complainant's testimony of physical abuse by the accused was supported by two other witnesses, confirming the complainant's allegation of extreme animus by the accused. The trial judge's reasons for conviction offered a clear explanation for the verdict and withstood appellate scrutiny. It was open to the trial judge to conclude that inconsistencies in the complainant's testimony were peripheral to the main allegations. The trial judge was alive to the Crown's burden of proof and the competing credibility assessments. There was no error in consideration of the complainant's delayed and bifurcated disclosure in assessing his credibility.

R. v. D.P., [2017] O.J. No. 1593, Ontario Court of Appeal, D.H. Doherty, G. Huscroft and B. Miller JJ.A., March 30, 2017. Digest No. TLD-Apr172017003