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Time served in stabbing death

After stabbing her husband with a steak knife during a heated argument, Tara Lynn Koiter applied first aid and called for help.

“She didn’t appreciate the harm that was done,” Koiter’s lawyer, Sandee Smordin, told Ontario Court Justice Stephen Glithero.

“The wound was extremely small … it wasn’t bleeding profusely,” she said.

“It was a one-in-a-million shot.”

Koiter, 35, was released from custody last week after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the 2016 death of her common-law husband, John Allan Liggins, 44..

Source: Time served in stabbing death

Senior Counsel Sandee Smordin in the news. Time served for manslaughter plea in Brantford case.

R. v. Jordan – How much delay is too much delay?


Supreme Court of Canada may not envisioned the future effects of it’s decision in R. v. Jordan when it held that trials in Provincial Courts should be held within 18 months, while trials in Superior Courts should take place with in 30 months. Although the Honourable Court made it clear that the decision was not meant to make sweeping changes and should not result in stay of thousand of charges as was the case with Supreme Court’s decision in R. v. Askov (1990), it’s decision in Jordan has resulted in uncontemplated ripple effects.

Prosecutors in Ottawa are appealing stay of charges for first degree murder after the trial judge held that a delay of 40 months to trial infringed upon an individual’s right to trial within a reasonable time, protected under Section 11 (b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Prosecutors stated that the trial judge did not consider society’s interest and reputation of justice system while making the order to stay first degree charges of Adam Picard. Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear appeal in June. Elsewhere, in Alberta and Quebec similar stay of charges for first and second degree murder are also under appeal due to Jordan ruling.

Prosecutors in Toronto are seeking a removal of one of the two defence lawyers for two brothers committed to stand trial on first degree murder, alleging that one of the accused’s right to to fair trial will be infringed due to the other accused’s lawyer’s unavailability for trial within the 30 month limit set by Supreme’s Court’s decision in R. v. Jordan last year. Curtis and Corey Murray, two brothers were charged in March 2015 and are set to be tried together for a six week trial, but Curtis’s lawyer is not available for such a lengthy trial until March 2018. Crown is alleging that Corey’s right to fair trial will be infringed and crown’s case will be harmed if brothers are tried separately. As a result, an accused’s right to trial within a reasonable time is in conflict with co-accused’s right to counsel of choice, both rights protected by the Charter. Criminal Lawyers Association has intervened and has stated “that state interference in the lawyer-client relationship should be permitted only in the most compelling circumstances”. Supreme Court in Jordan could not have thought of circumstances such as above could have arisen from their decision.

The Federal Justice Minister has called for an emergency meeting with its Provincial counterparts, at the end of April, 2017, to address the concern of delay which has led provinces such as Alberta to withdraw or stay many charges in order to accommodate serious offences. Although, provinces have channeled millions of dollars to hire more provincial court judges, prosecutors, court staff and have expanded legal aid, federal government has not kept up with pace of ensuring trials can take place within reasonable time. There are more than four dozens vacancies for judges in Superior Court and federal government does not any framework in place that can help in fulfilling these positions in a timely manner.

Ironically, provinces such as Ontario and Manitoba are also planning to scrap an accused’s choice to have a Preliminary Inquiry in order to combat delay by arguing that Preliminary Inquiries take up court’s valuable resources without providing any real benefits. The Benefits of Preliminary Inquiry were discussed in previous posts and there are plenty for both the Crown and Defense.

In conclusion, it would be suffice to say that the Court of Appeal’s ruling in Picard will be eagerly awaited. However, it may well turn out to be an opportunity for Supreme Court to reconsider its 5-4 decision in Jordan and lay further framework that equally protects an accused’s rights and freedoms under the Charter, but also balances society’s interest in combating crime and reputation of justice system.

How long has it taken for your matter to get to trial? Are you still waiting? never hesitate to contact Smordin Law to review your options.

Warrantless Entry and Exigent Circumstances

What is Warrantless Entry and Exigent Circumstances?

A man’s home is his castle. Therefore, a person’s house is afforded much more protection of privacy than, for example, a person’s motor vehicle being driven on a public highway. In R. v. Paterson, 2017 SCC 15 (Paterson), the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) clarified the law regarding the legality of warrantless searches of a person’s house when the police rely on exigent circumstances to justify the violation of sanctity of home. SCC held that in order to justify warrantless searches of houses, the police must demonstrate that there were: (1) exigent circumstances; and (2) those circumstances made it impracticable to obtain a warrant. The SCC held that the police cannot rely on impracticability to obtain a warrant to establish exigent circumstances. Rather, the opposite is true. The police must satisfy exigent circumstances before arguing that it was impracticable to obtain a warrant. Conversely, exigent circumstances alone cannot establish impracticability either.

Foot in the Door

In Paterson, RCMP in Langley, British Columbia (BC) receive a 911 call from a woman who is crying and is in need of help. Two police officers arrive at the apartment building and satisfy themselves that no one needs further help after the building superintendent advises them that the 911 caller, the victim, has already been taken to hospital. None the less, after being led to the unit from where the 911 is made, police knock on the Paterson’s door, Paterson opens the door, police question him about the smell of marijuana and Paterson says that he has some “roaches” or marijuana cigarette butts in the house. Police officers advise Paterson that they will confiscate the roaches but will not arrest Paterson. Paterson, before going to retrieve the roaches, tries to close the door. Police officer puts his foot in the door, and then both officers follow Paterson inside the house where he finds a gun, drugs and bullet-proof vest in plain sight.  Police arrest Paterson, get a warrant and search the house which results in seizure of multiple illegal firearms and different drugs.

Crown argues “exigent circumstances” under Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA), Section 11 (7), in order to justify the warrantless entry into Paterson’s house. The Trial Judge agrees with the Crown. Paterson appeals, appeal is dismissed by BC Court of Appeal and the case eventually reaches the SCC.

In SCC, Justice Brown, writing for the majority of five judges out of seven, held that the police, upon hearing out about the roaches, had a practicable option to arrest Paterson, obtain a warrant and then search the house. Justice Brown further held that if the circumstances were not serious enough to arrest Paterson, then they couldn’t have been serious enough to enter Paterson’s house without warrant.

In order for circumstances to be exigent, the police must need to act immediately in order to preserve evidence, protect civilians or ensure officer safety. SCC held that since the police were not going to arrest Paterson, the concern for preserving roaches as evidence did not compel urgency. Moreover, the concern for officer safety was result of officers entering the apartment, whereas officer safety needs to be the cause of exigent circumstances, not the result. Hence, there were no exigent circumstances that compelled immediate action by police to enter the apartment.

Justice Brown further stated that exigent circumstances under CDSA require urgency and not merely inconvenience to the police. Impracticability was defined by Justice Brown as “…that it be impossible in practice or unmanageable to obtain a warrant.” He cites the French equivalent which requires something less then impossibility but exceeds mere impracticality of obtaining a warrant.

Therefore, the SCC held that the evidence was seized as a result of unreasonable search and seizure under Section 8 of the Charter. Paterson was acquitted because the SCC held that the admission of evidence, firearms and drugs, will bring administration of justice into disrepute under section 24 (2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter).

This decision portrays SCC’s success in effectively discharging its duty to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter. Such rights and freedoms are only meaningful if they are implemented in reality and are not rendered redundant as black letters on a white piece of paper. (Paterson) (Jordan)