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APPEALS - Grounds - Misapprehension of or failure to consider evidence

Wednesday, January 02, 2019 @ 8:24 AM  

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Appeal by the accused, Dejaeger, from a conviction on 24 counts of sexual offences. The accused was a Roman Catholic priest posted to the community of Igloolik in present-day Nunavut. Approximately 40 Inuit complainants alleged a wide variety of offences that included indecent assault, unlawful confinement, rape, sexual assault, assault, acts of gross indecency, threatening, buggery and bestiality. The offences were alleged to have been committed between 1976 and 1982 against children, adolescent pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults ranging between four and 20 years of age. Some complainants relied on a continuous memory of the alleged abuse. Other complainants claimed to have recovered memory of the abuse at later points in their lives. The accused testified and denied the extent of the wrongdoing alleged. His evidence was rejected, and he was convicted of 24 of the offences and acquitted of the remainder. Where the Crown's evidence showed opportunity, and the similar fact evidence accorded with the nature of the abuse and unique behavioural characteristics reported by other complainants, a conviction was justified. Where portions of the complainants' testimony were not available as similar fact evidence, nor could form the basis for convictions due to acute reliability concerns arising from the passage of time, pre-trial collaboration and innocent contamination between witnesses, acquittals resulted. The accused appealed.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The verdicts were not unreasonable. In accepting some of the complainants' allegations and rejecting others, the trial judge recognized the different prevailing factors and carefully considered the evidence in the context of each of the 80 counts. The factual findings and credibility assessments were entitled to deference and disclosed no palpable and overriding error. In rejecting the accused's evidence as lacking believability and failing to raise a reasonable doubt, the trial judge correctly articulated and applied the WD principles. In admitting a limited amount of similar fact evidence, the trial judge correctly balanced the probative value and prejudicial effect of that evidence.

R. v. Dejaeger, [2018] Nu.J. No. 33, Nunavut Court of Appeal, M.B. Bielby, J. Strekaf and R. Khullar JJ.A., November 22, 2018. Digest No. TLD-January22019001