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Appeal of Criminal Conviction Deemed Sufficient Reason to Adjourn Personal Injury Trial

Interesting reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing an adjournment of a personal injury trial when collateral criminal proceedings were ongoing.

In last week’s case (Gillespie v. Pompeo) the Defendant police officer shot and injured the Plaintiff.  The police officer was charged and convicted of aggravated assault.  He appealed the conviction.  Before the appeal was disposed of the Plaintiff’s injury claim was scheduled for trial.  The Defendant applied to adjourn the trial until the criminal matter was disposed of.  In finding this appropriate Mr. Justice Baird provided the following reasons:

[11]         Section 71 of the Evidence Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c.124, provides that a conviction that is not subject to appeal, or from which no appeal is taken, may be admitted as evidence on a civil trial as proof that the convicted person committed the offence…

[15]         Defendant’s counsel submitted that the presently scheduled civil trial in June will involve a second full trial on precisely the same evidence and issues as those already given a comprehensive airing on the criminal trial in Provincial Court. The same witnesses will be called on the issue of liability and the same defence of justification under section 25 of the Criminal Code will be advanced.

[16]         Defendant’s counsel has conceded, quite properly, that there can be no civil trial on the question of liability if the conviction stands and all appeals are abandoned or exhausted…

[19]         As things stand, the defendant has been criminally convicted of aggravated assault. There can be no assumption at this stage that a civil trial will yield a different or more accurate result. If the conviction is upheld it will be the end of the matter for the purposes of liability, and a civil trial conducted in the interval will have been a colossal waste of judicial resources and the time, money and effort of the parties and witnesses alike. Finally, dual proceedings on the same issues and facts give rise to the spectre of inconsistent verdicts, an eventuality to be avoided in the interests of maintaining the credibility of the judicial process.

[20]         For these reasons I conclude that an adjournment of the civil trial is in the best interests of justice.

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