Criminal Law

Judge's comments must not impact right to fair trial

By Staff

In sexual assault trials, it is essential that the push for more protection for complainants does not impact the fair trial rights of the accused, Toronto criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger tells Law Times.

As the article notes, the Court of Appeal recently quashed a sexual assault conviction and ordered a new trial for the defendant after concluding that the trial judge had not treated the accused and a defence witness fairly.

“We instruct jurors every day that they are to judge cases with neither sympathy nor prejudice. Here it is apparent that this trial judge let his personal feelings about the appellant and his witness overtake his objectivity,” says the decision.

Neuberger, partner with Neuberger & Partners LLP, explains: “We have to be careful that we do not go too far to the other side.

Although the judge has an “excellent reputation,” in this case, his comments were inappropriate, says Neuberger, who comments generally and was not involved in the matter.

“A judge has to be careful about the language that is used in addressing the testimony and credibility of an accused person,” he says.

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