Summary

41220

His Majesty the King v. Lucas Hanrahan

(Newfoundland & Labrador) (Criminal) (As of Right)

(Publication ban in case)

Keywords

Criminal law — Evidence — Admissibility — Complainant’s prior sexual history — Text messages — Whether the majority of the Court of Appeal erred in law by finding the trial judge’s determination that there was an inconsistency in the complainant’s evidence, which grounded the s. 276 application for the admission of the complainant’s prior sexual history, was owed deference — Whether the majority of the Court of Appeal erred in law by finding the trial judge correctly decided that the prior sexual history between the complainant and the accused was admissible and the complainant could be cross examined on it — Whether the majority of the Court of Appeal erred in law by finding the trial judge reasonably exercised his trial management powers in refusing to allow crown counsel to re-examine the complainant following defence counsel’s cross-examination of the complainant on her prior sexual history with the accused — Whether the majority of the Court of Appeal erred in law in its conclusion that while the trial judge placed unnecessary restrictions on the use of text messages entered as an exhibit, it was a reasonable exercise of his trial management power.

Summary

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(Publication ban in case)

The respondent, Lucas Hanrahan, was found not guilty of sexual assault following a jury trial. Consent was the central issue. The Crown appealed Mr. Hanrahan’s acquittal, submitting that the trial judge erred in law by restricting Crown counsel’s examination of the complainant on her prior statements (text messages that were exchanged between the complainant and Mr. Hanrahan after the event) and erred in law in rulings related to the admission of evidence about the complainant’s prior sexual history.

A majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed the Crown’s appeal. It concluded that although the trial judge placed restrictions on the text messages exhibit during direct examination of the complainant in excess of what was necessary to prevent the jury from improperly using the text messages, his interventions were within the reasonable exercise of his trial management power. The majority also concluded the trial judge made no error in finding that the prior sexual history evidence was capable of being admissible. There was no error regarding the judge’s finding of an inconsistency between the complainant’s evidence on cross-examination and her prior statement to the police. The trial judge did not err in admitting the prior sexual history evidence and in refusing to allow Crown counsel to question the complainant about the inconsistency on re-examination.

Knickle J.A., dissenting, would have allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial. She concluded that the trial judge erred in his treatment of the text messages conversation evidence and therefore improperly restricted the Crown’s direct examination of the complainant. The trial judge also erred in admitting evidence of the complainant’s previous sexual history for the purpose of cross-examining her on alleged inconsistencies, because the complainant’s testimony was not inconsistent with what she had stated to police and she had not put her previous sexual history with Mr. Hanrahan in issue. The trial judge also erred by denying Crown counsel’s re-examination of the complainant. These errors had a material bearing on the verdict of acquittal rendered by the jury.

Lower Court Rulings

September 24, 2021
Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, General Division

202001G0712
Acquittal entered for charge of sexual assault
March 7, 2024
Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador

202101H0065, 2024 NLCA 9
Appeal dismissed