Justice minister sends murder conviction to appeal court as ‘miscarriage of justice likely occurred’

By Cristin Schmitz

Law360 Canada (August 9, 2023, 4:41 PM EDT) -- Canada’s new Justice Minister Arif Virani has referred a likely miscarriage of justice involving a murder conviction for the death of a child to be reviewed by the Ontario Court of Appeal.

On Aug. 9, the federal Department of Justice announced that the Toronto Liberal MP, who succeeded Montreal MP David Lametti in the justice portfolio as part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle July 26, has referred the case of Timothy Rees to the Court of Appeal for Ontario for a new appeal pursuant to the s. 696.1 conviction review provisions of the Criminal Code.

The government said the move followed Lametti’s extensive internal review of the file, who determined “that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred. Minister Virani has reviewed the file and is supportive of this decision.”

Justice Minister Arif Virani

Justice Minister Arif Virani

The Justice Department said the decision came as a result of new information that was not before the courts at the times Rees was tried and appealed.

“All people in Canada must have confidence that the justice system is there to protect them and that it can be trusted,” Virani said in a statement. “A fair justice system must also be compassionate and balance the needs of victims while guarding against potential miscarriages of justice, which is why we have a process in place to review such cases. This case is particularly tragic in that it involves the death of a child. However, after a review of Mr. Rees’s case, there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred and that a new appeal from conviction is warranted.”

Rees was convicted in 1990 of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with no eligibility for parole for 15 years.

His appeal to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, based on his submission that an inculpatory statement he gave to police should not have been admitted because his Charter s. 10(b) right to counsel was violated, was dismissed June 16, 1994. Rees was denied leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1995.

After 19 years in custody, he was released on day parole in 2009 and is currently out of custody on full parole, the Department of Justice said.

Rees’s application that his conviction be reviewed was submitted to the Department of Justice in 2018. Section 696.1 of the Criminal Code provides that a person who has been convicted of an offence and who has exhausted all rights of appeal may apply to the minister of justice for a review of their conviction.

Before deciding to order a new trial or appeal, the minister of justice must be satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred, after closely examining information initially submitted in support of the application, followed by an in-depth investigation. “A key consideration is whether the application is supported by new matters of significance, such as new information that has surfaced since the trial and appeal,” the Department of Justice said.

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