R v Cox: Court of Appeal panel cautions against “over-charging”

//R v Cox: Court of Appeal panel cautions against “over-charging”

R v Cox: Court of Appeal panel cautions against “over-charging”

By | 2016-11-16T20:46:24+00:00 27/11/2013|Procedure and Practice|0 Comments

An Alberta Court of Appeal panel cautioned in R. v. Cox, 2013 ABCA 394 about the practice of laying complicated multi-count indictments. The case was primarily a sentence appeal of a 10 year sentence for robbery with a firearm and firearms offences. After upholding the trial judge’s sentence, the panel continued to discuss the indictment in the proceeding. By way of illustration, the court noted that the robbery of a drugstore using a firearm had resulted in five charges: using a firearm in committing a robbery, being masked during the commission of an indictable offence, pointing a firearm without lawful excuse, using a firearm in a careless manner, and possessing a weapon (a firearm) for a purpose dangerous to the public peace.

In discussing the five charges resulting from the robbery, the panel noted that it was difficult to see how the offence of careless use of a firearm could arise from an intentional use of a firearm in the commission of a robbery. As well, the court noted that the dangerous use of the firearm was encompassed in the charge of using a firearm in the commission of a robbery, the seriousness of which is already reflected in the four year minimum jail sentence. In addition to the robbery charge, the accused had been found to be in possession of 10 stolen, loaded firearms. In total, the indictment against the accused contained 45 counts.

The panel stated it saw many problems which could potentially arise as a result of over-charging:

[28]     First, when an accused elects to be tried by judge and jury, providing comprehensive and coherent instructions to so many redundant charges is a challenging task for any trial judge. Second, even if properly charged, a jury is more likely to return inconsistent verdicts when faced with so many counts, which could result in meritorious convictions being overturned on appeal. Third, this practice will result in a multiplicity of convictions that distorts an accused person’s criminal record when considered by a court in the future. In this case, for example, the 10 firearms found in the appellant’s possession were reflected in over 30 convictions. Finally, the practice erodes the reputation of the Crown as fair and reasonable, a reputation without which the Crown cannot effectively discharge its obligations in the proper administration of criminal justice.

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