Abuse of Process by Crown Counsel

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General Principles

See also: Abuse of Process and Role of the Crown

There is a high bar to be met before there can be a review of prosecutorial discretion. The judicial branch of government should not interfere with the administrative or accusatorial function of the executive branch of government unless there is is "flagrant impropriety".[1]

The discretionary decisions and motives of the Crown should not be "second-guessed" by the Courts unless there is "improper motives or bad faith".[2]

Any decisions made by the Crown that form part of the core prosecutorial discretion can only be reviewed for abuse of process.[3] This would require circumstances of "flagrant impropriety".[4]

Burden and Standard
The burden of proof is on the applicant to prove abuse of process on a balance of probabilities.[5]

Conducting a prosecution in "a manner that contravenes the community's basic sense of decency and fair play and thereby calls into question the integrity of the system" will be basis for a stay.[6]

It is not necessary to make findings of misconduct or improper motives for a stay of proceedings to be entered.[7]

In certain circumstance, such as a repudiated plea agreement, the burden may shift to the Crown once the applicant establishes a "proper evidentiary foundation".[8]

  1. Kostuch v Attorney General, 1995 CanLII 6244 (AB CA), (1995) 43 CR (4th) 81 at pp. 89 to 92
  2. R v Power, 1994 CanLII 126 (SCC), [1994] 1 SCR 601
  3. R v Nixon, 2011 SCC 34 (CanLII) at para 31
    R v Anderson, 2014 SCC 41 (CanLII) at para 51
  4. Krieger v Law Society (Alberta), 2002 SCC 65 (CanLII), [2002] 3 SCR 372 at para 49
  5. R v Anderson, 2014 SCC 41 (CanLII), per Moldaver J, at para 52
    R v Cook, 1997 CanLII 392 (SCC), [1997] 1 SCR 1113 at para. 62
    R v O’Connor, [1995] 4 SCR 411, 1995 CanLII 51 (SCC) at para. 69, per L’Heureux-Dubé J.
    R v Jolivet, 2000 SCC 29 (CanLII), [2000] 1 SCR 751, at para. 19
  6. O'Connor, supra at para 63
  7. O'Connor, ibid. at para 79
    R v Keyowski, [1988] 1 SCR 657, 1988 CanLII 74 (SCC)
  8. Nixon, supra at para 60 to 62
    Anderson, supra


The Court should be presented with "“overwhelming evidence that the proceedings under scrutiny are unfair".[1]

It is not always necessary that all cases requires an evidential foundation of affidavits or viva voce testimony.[2]

  1. R v Power, [1994] 1 SCR 601, 1994 CanLII 126 (SCC), per L'Heureux-Dubé J, at para 17
  2. R v Roach, 2013 ABQB 472 (CanLII), at para 36

Challenge to Prosecutorial Discretion

See also: Prosecutorial Discretion

The exercise of the powers of the Crown have been challenged in the following circumstances:

  1. R v V.(K.S.), 1994 CanLII 9747 (NL CA), (1994) 89 CCC (3d) 477
    R v Lafrance [1974] 2 SCR 201(*no CanLII links)
    R v Johnson, [1977] 2 SCR 646, 1977 CanLII 229 (SCC)
  2. R v Baker, 1986 CanLII 1151 (BC SC), (1986), 26 CCC (3d) 123
    R v Faber (1987), 38 CCC (3d) 49(*no CanLII links)
    R v Osiowy (1989), 50 CCC (3d) 189(*no CanLII links) at p. 191
    Werring v BC (AG), 1997 CanLII 4080 (BC CA), (1997), 122 CCC (3d) 343 (BCCA)
  3. R v Century 21 Ramos Realty Inc. and Ramos, 1987 CanLII 171 (ON CA), (1987), 32 CCC (3d) 353
    R v Kelly, 1998 CanLII 7145 (ON CA), (1998) 128 CCC (3d) 206
  4. R v E.(L.), 1994 CanLII 1785 (ON CA), (1994), 94 CCC (3d) 228
  5. R v Arviv, 1985 CanLII 161 (ON CA), (1985), 19 CCC (3d) 295
    R v Moore (1986), 26 CCC (3d) 474(*no CanLII links)
    R v Sterling, 1993 CanLII 9146 (SK CA), (1993), 84 CCC (3d) 65 - stay overturned
    R v Charlie, 1998 CanLII 4145 (BC CA), (1998), 126 CCC (3d) 513 at pp. 521 to 522
    R v Thomas, 2017 BCSC 841 (CanLII)
  6. R v Hanneson (1987), 31 CCC (3d) 560(*no CanLII links)
  7. R v Cook, [1997] 1 SCR 1113, 1997 CanLII 392 (SCC), at para 21
  8. R v Light, 1993 CanLII 1023 (BC CA), (1993) 78 CCC (3d) 221
    R v Pasini, 1991 CanLII 3916 (QC CA), (1991), 63 CCC (3d) 436
    R v Scott, [1990] 3 SCR 979, 1990 CanLII 27 (SCC)
    R v Cole, 1998 CanLII 2425 (NS SC), (1998) 126 CCC (3d) 159

Malicious Prosecution

To establish malicious prosecution the plaintiff must prove the following:[1]

  1. Initiated by the defendant;
  2. Terminated in favour of the plaintiff;
  3. Undertaking without reasonable and probable cause; and
  4. Motivated by malice or a primary purpose other than carrying the law into effect.
  1. Miazga v Kvello Estate, 2009 SCC 51 (CanLII)
    see also: Nelles v Ontario, 1989 CanLII 77 (SCC), [1989] 2 SCR 170
    Proulx v The Attorney General of Quebec, 2001 SCC 66 (CanLII), [2001] 3 SCR 9

Other Types of Prosecutions

See also: Fitness to Stand Trial

Capacity of the Accused
The accused's loss of memory due to amnesia should not provide the basis for a stay of proceedings for abuse of process.[1]

Serious Health Concerns
A prosecution may be stayed for abuse of process where the accused is "suffering from such serious health concerns that the continuation of the prosecution against him or her would be" abusive.[2]

  1. R v Morrissey, 2007 ONCA 770 (CanLII) at para 75
  2. R v Hong, 2015 ONSC 4840 (CanLII) at para 24 per Boswell SCJ refers to it as a Michalowsky application
    R v Hong, 2015 ONSC 5114 (CanLII)
    R v Magomadova, 2015 ABCA 26 (CanLII)
    R v TGP, 1996 CanLII 8405 (BC CA)
    R v J.-G.R., 2006 CanLII 21072 (ON SC)
    R v Michalowsky, [1991] O.J. No. 3611

Repudiation of a Plea Deal

The Crown is generally expected to honour agreements made.[1]

A repudiation of a plea agreement between crown and defence may amount to a breach of s. 7 of the Charter or a breach of the common law abuse of process doctrine.[2]

Agreements between counsel, whether on plea or otherwise, ensure an efficient and effective administration of justice. [3]

It is suggested that the Crown may be able to repudiate a plea and sentence agreement where there Crown subsequently discovers additional charges pending against the accused.[4]

Where a summary election was contingent on a guilty plea that it ultimately reneged by defence, the Crown has the ability to re-elect to proceed by indictment.[5]

  1. R v Goodwin, (1981), 21 C.R. (3d) 263 (N.S.S.C.)(*no CanLII links)
    R v Betesh, [1975] O.J. No. 36 (Ont. Ct. J.)(*no CanLII links)
    R v Smith, [1974] BCJ No. 776 (SC)(*no CanLII links)
  2. see R v M.(R.), 2006 CanLII 32999 (ON SC), [2006] O.J. No. 3875 per Hill J.
  3. R v Dewald, 2001 CanLII 4721 (ON CA), (2001) 156 CCC (3d) 405
  4. e.g. R v Wood, 2007 NSPC 39 (CanLII)
  5. R v De La Cruz, 2003 CanLII 45233 (ON CA)

Other Conduct

Breach of Solicitor-Client Privilege
A stay may be warranted where the Crown gains access to defence documents that are protected by solicitor-client privilege.[1] There mere possession of these documents creates a rebuttable presumption of prejudice.[2]

Re-Laying Charges
A re-laying of an information after withdrawing charges at trial or on preliminary inquiry can be found to be abusive.[3] However, a stay during a trial is not necessarily always going to be abusive.[4]In has been found to be permissible where there is no "oppression, prejudice, harassment, or manifest hardship upon the accused".[5]

Interview of Witnesses
The pre-charge interview of complainants by the Crown may raise some difficulties but is not abusive per se and may serve as a reasonable practice to avoid harmful or arbitrary results.[6]

  1. R v Bruce Power Inc., 2009 ONCA 573 (CanLII),
  2. Bruce Power Inc., ibid.
  3. R v Sabourin, 2007 MBQB 53 (CanLII) - Judge comments that there should have been a direct indictment instead
    R v Ferguson, [1978] AJ No 1001 (ABPC), per Porter PCJ - Crown withdrew charges on day or trial and re-laid it a few days later
    R. v. Weightman and Cunningham, [1977] O.J. No 2592 (Ont. P.C. Crim. Div.), per Zabel PCJ - Crown pulls charges mid-trial and re-laid them, the judge found the conduct "vexatious and oppressive"
    R. v. Cole, [1998] N.S.J. No. 245 (N.S.S.C.)
  4. R. v. Beaudry, 1966 CarswellBC 114 (C.A.)
    R. v. Smith, 1992 CarswellBC 407 (C.A.)
    R. v. Scott, 1990 CarswellOnt 65 (S.C.C.)
    R v Panarctic Oils Ltd., 1982 CarswellNWT 37 (S.C.)
    R. v. Ball, 1978 CarswellOnt 1227 (C.A.)
  5. Ball, ibid. at para 19
    Roach, supra at para 45
  6. R v Regan, [2002] 1 SCR 297, 2002 SCC 12 (CanLII), per LeBel J , at para 91

See Also