Patrick John Goldfinch v. Her Majesty the Queen

(Alberta) (Criminal) (As of Right)

(Publication ban in case)


Criminal law - Evidence, Admissibility - Criminal law - Evidence - Admissibility - Complainant’s sexual activity - Whether the trial judge correctly ruled that evidence of a relationship was not tendered for the purposes prohibited by s. 276 of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985 c. C-46, and was properly admissible in evidence - Whether the trial judge erred in deeming admissible “relatively benign” relationship evidence with respect to which she provided the jury with correct legal instructions as to both the permissible and impermissible uses - Whether any error in the application of s. 276 would have had a material bearing on the acquittals in accordance with the test set out in R. v. Graveline, 2006 SCC 16, [2006] 1 S.C.R. 609.


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Patrick John Goldfinch, appellant, was acquitted on charges of assault and sexual assault. He and the complainant had been in a relationship together and, when it ended, they continued to see each other just for sex. At trial, evidence of the complainant’s sexual history was admitted, pursuant to s. 276 of the Criminal Code, on the basis that it would provide context and help avoid an erroneous misapprehension on the part of the jury that the relationship between Mr. Goldfinch and the complainant was platonic. The trial judge found that the evidence was relevant and had probative value that exceeded any prejudicial effect. The Crown appealed the acquittals, arguing that the trial judge was wrong to have admitted the evidence. A majority of the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial. Berger J.A., dissenting, would have dismissed the appeal on the basis that the trial judge’s analysis and the steps she took to comply with s. 276 revealed no misapprehension of the evidence nor any error warranting appellate intervention.