Disagreement in the Court of Appeal

There is a divide between the makers of the law in Alberta. Justices of the Alberta Court of Appeal decide how criminal laws will be interpreted and applied in Alberta, unless the specific interpretation or application has already been adjudicated by the Supreme Court of Canada. This means that matters which rarely appear before the Supreme Court, such as the application of sentencing principles, guideline or starting point sentences, applications for bail and procedural questions, are guided by the Alberta Court of Appeal. But what becomes of the law when the Justices of a Court of the Alberta Appeal disagree on these issues?

Recently, a three member panel of the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned a decision from one of their fellow Court of Appeal Justices in R. v. Sidhu . When faced with an application for bail pending appeal, the original Justice hearing R. v. Sidhu determined that in order to succeed on such an application, the applicant would have to show a 50% chance of succeeding on his appeal. This type of analysis had been raised in previous cases over the course of the last year but was not endorsed by other members of the Alberta Court of Appeal.

The three member panel denounced the original Justice’s mathematization of the bail test and they granted Mr. Sidhu bail pending appeal. The panel instead adopted the reasoning from the case of R. v. Govenlock, which found that a “greater risk is that over time, greater reliance on “mathematical precision” would displace a full and frank explanation of why a judge ruled as she did”.

The Sidhu case is just one example of the complexity of appeals, a complexity which makes it all the more important to get an opinion from an experienced appellate lawyer before embarking on the appeal process. If you have been convicted of a criminal offence and would like to discuss whether you have grounds for an appeal, contact the lawyers at Royal & Company today.