Laurier Bédard, et al. v. Her Majesty the Queen

(Quebec) (Criminal) (As of Right)


Criminal law.


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Criminal law - Defences - Officially induced error - Whether Court of Appeal erred in law in substituting its assessment of the facts for that of the trial judge despite the absence of a palpable and overriding error, particularly with regard to the sixth requirement of the specific defence of officially induced error of law - Whether Court of Appeal erred in law, in the context of the specific defence raised, in deciding that the trial judge’s inference that the appellants had acted in accordance with the superior’s advice was an error of law - Whether Court of Appeal erred in law in not adequately assessing the significance of clear evidence of the appellants’ good faith in connection with the specific defence of officially induced error.

On March 12, 2011, the appellants, who are fish and wildlife officers, observed that Nicolas Murray had allegedly committed an offence contrary to a regulation made under the Fisheries Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. F-14, by exceeding the allowed catch of fish. As Mr. Murray was no longer at the scene, the appellants took steps to meet with him to confirm his identity. To find out how to proceed, the appellants asked a colleague, a liaison officer responsible for advising officers on legal and regulatory matters. He told the appellants that they could arrest the perpetrator of an offence if that person refused to identify him- or herself. On April 9, 2011, the appellants went to the home of Mr. Murray, who refused to identify himself and told them to leave his house. The appellants tried to arrest Mr. Murray, who resisted. In the end, Mr. Murray identified himself, and the appellants left without arresting him. Mr. Murray then went to the hospital, and the evidence shows that he had visible injuries on his arms and legs. The appellants were charged with assault causing bodily harm.

In the Court of Quebec, the judge directed a stay of proceedings on the basis that the appellants had acted in reliance on an error of law made by an official, the liaison officer, thinking that they were authorized by law to arrest Mr. Murray without a warrant, using as much force as necessary. The Court of Appeal allowed the Crown’s appeal, set aside the stay of proceedings and found the appellants guilty as charged. According to the Court, even if the appellants could rely on the defence of officially induced error, they had not acted on the basis of the advice given, which would have applied only if Mr. Murray had invited the appellants into his home.