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Digest of the Week | Hearsay Evidence

Saskatchewan court admits evidence of text messages under principled approach to hearsay



R. v. Burns

2016 SKCA 67

Saskatchewan Court of Appeal



Evidence --- Hearsay — Principled approach — Reliability

Appeal — Accused was convicted of two counts of uttering threats, one count of unlawful confinement and one count of using firearm in commission of indictable offence — Complainant texted sister twice stating that accused was intoxicated and handling firearm and threatening suicide, threatening both women that if they left, and that he would shoot them and anyone to their house — Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) got involved following phone call from sister's husband RCMP called complainant and attended at residence and were able to get complainant to safety — RCMP then entered premises with firearms drawn and arrested accused — At trial, judge rejected complainants recanting testimony and assessed complainant's prior inconsistent statements as credible and reliable — Accused appealed on ground that judge erred by admitting and relying on hearsay evidence consisting of text messages and audio recording statement that complainant gave RCMP minutes after incident — Appeal dismissed — Judge used unambiguous, detailed account of what had occurred as set out in that hearsay evidence to find accused guilty on charges — Hearsay evidence, supported by other evidence, amply supported accused's convictions — Fact complainant recanted statements but refused to offer credible explanation, had refused to answer question, covered ears when audio statement was played and attempted to leave witness box before her examinations had concluded, discredited her in-court testimony and found her to be not credible or reliable in court — Verdict was consistent with factual conclusions she reached.
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