Monday, April 11, 2016

Up next at the Supreme Court of Canada: prosecutorial independence

The Supreme Court of Canada
The Lawyers Weekly has this useful summary by Cristin Schmitz of the issues and stakes in the next military justices cases to come before the Supreme Court of Canada. Excerpt:
Another pair of appeals of first impression, to be heard by the top court April 25, has the potential to shake up the military justice system, by striking down, as contrary to the s. 7 Charter principles of fundamental justice, separate provisions in the National Defence Act which empower the minister of National Defence to appeal acquittals, stays and sentences to the Court Martial Appeal Court (CMAC) and to appeal CMAC decisions to the Supreme Court of Canada: R. v. Cawthorne and R. v. Gagnon
The cases are about “the recognition of prosecutorial independence as a principle of fundamental justice,” said Lt.-Col. Jean-Bruno Cloutier, deputy director of Defence Counsel Services. “Is a minister of the Crown, who is not the attorney general…sufficiently independent to prosecute a crime in Canada?” explained Lt.-Cmdr. Mark Létourneau, co-counsel with Cloutier for the three respondent military members prosecuted for sexual offences under the Code of Service Discipline. 
If the top court agrees with the defence and the CMAC that the minister of Defence is not independent, it “will remove the last quasi-judicial power of the minister,…and that’s consistent I think, to my knowledge, with the role of all ministers of the Crown who have an executive role, not a quasi-judicial role,” said Létourneau.

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