In Court

This week I watched the first day of the jury trial of Meaghan MacDonald. There’s a publication ban in place but hopefully when the trial has ended I can share some thoughts on jury selection. Another jury trial in a sexual assault case begins Wednesday, and is expected to go for 10 days. Watching a jury is the most fascinating people-watching you’ll ever experience, so if you’re interested, check out the docket for times and courtroom numbers.

Melvin Jr. convicted on drug charges

On Friday, Jimmy Melvin Jr. was convicted of possession of marijuana for the purpose of trafficking and possession of hydromorphone and marijuana. This is small-time stuff in the well-documented Melvin-Marriott saga; the real story will be Melvin’s trial later this year for the 2009 murder of Terry Marriott Jr. This drug conviction arises from evidence found in Melvin’s car that was searched after he was arrested in a hotel room.

St. John’s police officer acquitted of sexual assault

A St. John’s woman thought she was taking a safer ride home than a cab when she asked an RNC officer to drive her home from the bar district. When she woke up in her own bed, the officer was having sex with her.

I originally assumed the defence was arguing that the officer had an honest but mistaken belief that she consented. The coverage of this case, however, has described the issue as a question of whether or not she consented. The Canadian Press spoke with a lawyer in St. John’s — not involved in the case — who they quote as saying that the law allows for someone who is drunk to give consent. Snelgrove’s lawyer told CP that “the jury must have had reasonable doubt about whether she agreed to sex, or Snelgrove believed she had.” That’s simply not my understanding of Canadian consent law, and I’ll be keeping an eye on this case to see if it’s appealed.

Barrons pleads guilty to lesser charges

The former girlfriend of Charles Barrons testified last week to a frightening assault. She held up well under cross-examination, and may have provided evidence sufficiently damning that Barrons’s high-end defence team felt it was time to make a deal. He pleaded guilty to assault and break and enter on Monday; his original charges also included sexual assault and uttering threats.


Pictou self-rep withdraws claim during cross-examination

In Pictou’s Family Court, applicant KF sought to change an existing custody order that placed his child with a grandparent and spouse. KF appeared on his own behalf, but withdrew his application in the middle of the hearing, while being cross-examined by the respondents’ lawyer.

Cross-examination can be a tough experience, even in a civil case. The applicant might have become discouraged by questions that drew attention to weaknesses in his case. I wasn’t there, of course, and can only speculate.

Judge Daley then ordered KF to pay $4,000 to the grandparents towards the cost of the litigation. Since KF had established he was in financial difficulty — struggling to pay child support payments, for one thing — Judge Daley allowed him to make monthly payments of $125.

Overweight five-year-old removed from mother’s care

A five-year-old Sydney boy has been permanently removed from his mother’s care after a judge found she was responsible for him reaching a weight of 132 lbs, a serious health issue. The Minister’s case was bolstered by the unhygienic living conditions described at the property, like a nest of mice living in the couch. The boy was back to 80lbs after being in the care of Community Services for several months, which contributed to the judge’s decision to award permanent care to the Minister.

Justice Robert Gregan decided not to award access visits to the boy’s parents. This was in part to avoid disrupting his chances of a permanent placement with an adoptive family, and to avoid “some false hopes being put to B.F. about possibly returning home” that had already arisen while the boy was in temporary care of the Minister (para 94). My experience is limited, but I have never encountered a parent involved in a child protection case that wouldn’t have tried to assure their child they were coming home soon while attending an access visit.

The judge found that the mother simply didn’t have the capacity to deal with her son’s high needs. I’ve done some past research on the issue of parents with mental health issues and societal ideas of parenting capacity. I hope to share some of that work with readers soon.

Small Claims and bad cars

In a judgment at Small Claims Court, an odd couple faced off over who was liable for a lemon. The plaintiff, Paul Tingley, bought a used car from a salesman at the defendant company, The Used Car Factory 21 on Sackville Drive. This salesman, Michael Surette, was actually keeping the cash payments Tingley made to him for himself, along with money from about 15 other customers who thought they were buying cars. Apparently he is in custody awaiting a fraud trial, although I wasn’t able to find coverage of this particular Lower Sackville used car fraud (this isn’t the Great Buys Auto Sales allegation).

The company, Factory 21, was liable to Tingley for Surette’s fraud. The owner of the company, Joel Sapp, couldn’t afford to pay everyone back, but offered Tingley a car in exchange. This car was, according to Tingley, crap. The adjudicator agreed that Factory 21 was liable for the cost of the estimated repairs, but that Tingley also should have taken the vehicle back to the seller to make use of the partial warranty. A claimant has a duty to try to reduce his or her losses, even if not liable for them. The adjudicator writes, “It appears that his only reason for not bringing the vehicle back to Factory 21 was because of his lingering mistrust after the Surette fraud. I do not find that to have been a reasonable response.” I probably wouldn’t have trusted them again either, but there you go.

In the news

Police Chief provides update on drug exhibit audit

Monday saw lots of coverage of this story from the CBC, Global and the Canadian Press. In short, lots of evidence has gone missing through the halls of Halifax Regional Police for decades. Some of the disorganization dates back before even the current incarnation of HRP. Officials estimate it will take 18 months to complete the audit, but the current update confirms that some problems have already been fixed. For example, they assure us that no more Zip-Loc bags will be used for collection or storage of evidence. Facepalm emoji.

If you want to read the full inventory of exhibits that remain outstanding, the HRP included it in their full report.

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  1. Here is a really ‘juicy’ Nova Scotia decision with links to former UK prime minister David Cameron.
    It is ‘The Bunford Family bun-fight’ over a French chateau, a winery and a significant fortune with a corporate entity registered in Nova Scotia.

    2015 Supreme Court decision

    and here is the late 2016 decision re claim for costs from NS Small Claims court :

    As an aside I noted this : ” As I have already found, there was an implied term of the retainer that the resources of the firm would be used, where appropriate.
    Ms. Cain was billed at an hourly rate ($175) that was appropriate to her
    then 5 to 6 years at the bar. “

  2. The opening paragraph in the car fraud appears to need a copy edit – Sapp’s name is used without introduction, and is used in a sense that probably should have been Tingley. As written, it’s rather confusing.