EVIDENCE - Hearsay rule - Exceptions - Prior evidence where witness unavailable to testify

Law360 Canada (May 8, 2023, 9:22 AM EDT) -- Appeal by Mitchell from his conviction for sexual interference and sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl who was the granddaughter of his friend. The complainant provided the police with a video-recorded statement nine days after the incident. A preliminary inquiry was held, at which the complainant testified and adopted her statement to the police. The complainant died from an illness in December 2019, before Mitchell’s trial began. The trial judge admitted the complainant’s preliminary inquiry evidence. Given this, the Crown applied to admit the complainant’s preliminary inquiry evidence for a hearsay purpose at trial and alternatively, the common law principled exception to the general rule that hearsay was inadmissible. Mitchell opposed the Crown’s application. He argued that necessity and threshold reliability had not been established, and that if the complainant’s preliminary inquiry evidence was admitted, he would be denied his right to make full answer and defence because there had been incomplete disclosure at the time of the preliminary inquiry. Following a two-day trial, Mitchell was convicted of sexual interference. The sexual assault charge was conditionally stayed. He appealed his conviction and argued that the trial judge erred in her approach to assessing the complainant’s evidence by failing to consider the weaknesses of hearsay before accepting it....
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