R v Bulldog (ABCA): Admissibility of video recordings

By | 2017-09-28T23:51:43+00:00 01/10/2015|Evidence, Video|0 Comments

CCTV camera

In R v Bulldog, 2015 ABCA 251, the Alberta Court of Appeal provided useful guidance on the evidence necessary to introduce video recordings at trial. The court’s reasoning can likely be applied to other pieces of demonstrative evidence, such as audio recordings and photographs.

The case concerned an inmate-on-inmate assault which had occurred in an Edmonton correctional institution. More than one copy of a video recording of the  from a CCTV system in the institution had been made. The precise path by which the recording tendered by the Crown in court had been made was unclear to any witness who testified. The Crown did, however, call a witness who had seen the footage at an earlier time and testified that the recording was consistent with what they had earlier viewed. Other witnesses described the assault and their evidence provided details which were consistent with the recording that was tendered (though these eyewitness had not been shown the video).

On the appeal, defence counsel argued, based upon R v Nikolovski, 1996 CanLII 158 (SCC), that the recording had not been sufficiently “authenticated”. They submitted that Nikolovski requires two things: proof that the recording is an accurate depiction of the place and event; and that the recording has not been altered or changed. The Crown, in contrast, argued that it only need establish that the video recording accurately represents the events that are material to the prosecution.

The Court ultimately endorsed the Crown’s position, stating:

A trial judge is entitled to authenticate a video recording by using circumstantial evidence of one or more witnesses, provided such evidence establishes to the requisite standard of proof that the video in question is a substantially accurate and fair depiction of what it purports to depict.

[at para. 37]

This decision may be of assistance in cases where recordings have been transferred from one format to another, where filtering or other enhancements (such as the reduction of background noise or increases in contrast) have been necessary to make the content of the recording clearer or where the chain of custody of a video is murky.

 

Image Credit: Mike Fleming. Licence. Link.

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