Her Majesty the Queen v. Alex Normore
(N.L.) (Criminal) (As of Right)
Criminal law - Trial, Contempt of court - Criminal law - Trial - Witnesses - Contempt of court - Witness refusing to answer question at accused’s trial - Court of Appeal quashing convictions and ordering new trial on basis that trial judge erred in law in not taking further steps to elicit answer from witness - Whether Court of Appeal erred in law in ordering new trial due to trial judge’s failure to invoke contempt proceedings against witness.
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The respondent, Alex Normore, broke into Ronald Thomas’ home and assaulted Mr. Thomas with a large flashlight. Several charges were brought against Mr. Normore as a result of this incident. At Mr. Normore’s trial, defence counsel called Mr. Thomas as a witness. He refused to answer one of the questions. Although the trial judge advised Mr. Thomas that he could be found in contempt, the trial judge did not take any further steps to elicit an answer from Mr. Thomas, since in his view, the answer to the question would not have had much bearing on the trial. Mr. Normore was convicted of attempted murder, uttering death threats, and breaking and entering a place and committing an indictable offence therein.
Mr. Normore appealed his conviction, arguing that the trial judge’s failure to take further steps to compel Mr. Thomas to answer the question was a reversible legal error and precluded a legitimate line of inquiry. The majority of the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, quashed the convictions and ordered a new trial. In its view, the trial judge’s refusal to take further steps to elicit an answer from Mr. Thomas was an error of law. Hoegg J.A., dissenting, would have dismissed the appeal. In her view, the trial judge did not err by failing to invoke contempt proceedings against Mr. Thomas, and Mr. Normore’s ability to fully and fairly defend himself was not compromised nor was his trial rendered unfair.
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