Accused in Court
- 1 General Principles
- 2 Accused and Offender Defined
- 3 Right to Representation
- 4 Accused's Presence at Court Other Than For Trial
- 5 Accused's Presence at Trial
- 6 Right to Face Accusers
- 7 Use of Restraints in Court
- 8 Sitting Position of Accused
- 9 Accused Absconding
- 10 Organizations as Accused
- 11 See Also
Generally, an accused is expected to be present during the proceedings against him. He must be present for his trial, but may have representation appear on his behalf for non-trial matters.
Accused and Offender Defined
“offender” means a person who has been determined by a court to be guilty of an offence, whether on acceptance of a plea of guilty or on a finding of guilt;
493. In this Part,
- (a) a person to whom a peace officer has issued an appearance notice under section 496, and
- (b) a person arrested for a criminal offence;
672.1 (1) In this Part,
“accused” includes a defendant in summary conviction proceedings and an accused in respect of whom a verdict of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder has been rendered;
716. In this Part,
“accused” includes a defendant;
Right to Representation
A judge must make adequate inquiries into whether the accused wants to be represented by counsel. He should be "thorough" in his explanation of the importance of exercising the right. Failure to do so may infringe the accused's Charter rights under s. 7.
Accused's Presence at Court Other Than For Trial
On a summary conviction matter, the accused may appear in person or by counsel or agent.
- s. 800(2)
(2.1) Where the court so orders and the defendant agrees, the defendant who is confined in prison may appear by closed-circuit television or any other means that allow the court and the defendant to engage in simultaneous visual and oral communication, if the defendant is given the opportunity to communicate privately with counsel, in a case in which the defendant is represented by counsel.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 800; 1997, c. 18, s. 111; 2003, c. 21, s. 21.
Condition for remote appearance
848. Despite anything in this Act, if an accused who is in prison does not have access to legal advice during the proceedings, the court shall, before permitting the accused to appear by a means of communication that allows the court and the accused to engage in simultaneous visual and oral communication, be satisfied that the accused will be able to understand the proceedings and that any decisions made by the accused during the proceedings will be voluntary.
2002, c. 13, s. 84.
Accused's Presence at Trial
Under s. 650(1) (indictable matters) and 800(2) (summary matters), the accused must be present for the whole of their trial.
The meaning of "trial" is broad and can refer to any proceedings that form part of the "trial process for determining the guilt or innocence of the accused" as well as penalty.The key factor is whether the proceedings involved the the accused's "vital interests."
In-chambers discussions without the accused on certain issues of jury selection is preliminary in nature and so does not engage the accused's "vital interests".
Under s.650(1.1) and (1.2), the court may order that the accused appear by way of video link where all the parties agree. This can include parts of the trial where evidence is not being taken so long as there is a means to have defence counsel consult with their client.
The court may exclude the accused from their trial under s.650(2) for three situations: 1) where the accused "misconducts himself by interrupting the proceedings" so much so that it would be infeasible to continue; 2) where the court finds it "proper"; or 3) where the accused's presence may have an adverse effect on the accused's mental health on a hearing for fitness.
The judge may not interview jurors outside of the presence of the accused.
Discussion in chambers regarding the credibility of witnesses by the trial judge in absence of accused can violate s. 650(1) right to be present.
The judge talking with the jury constables and reporter after trial when she heard that members of jury were pressured in their verdict.
- R v Sinclair, 2013 ONCA 64 (CanLII) at para 15 : cites many examples
R v Sinclair at para 15
R v Vezina; R v Cote, 1986 CanLII 93 (SCC),  1 SCR 2
R v Sinclair at para 17
R v Dunbar, (1982), 68 CCC (2d) 13
R v Fenton, 1984 CanLII 633 (BC CA), (1984), 11 CCC (3d) 109
R v James 2009 ONCA 366 (CanLII)
- R v Phillips, 2008 ONCA 726 (CanLII)
Right to Face Accusers
The "right to face one's accusers is not in this day and age to be taken in the literal sense...it is simply the right of an accused to be present in court, to hear the case against him and to make answer and defence to it."
- R v R(ME) (1989), 49 CCC (3d) 475 (NSCA)(*no link)
Use of Restraints in Court
Sitting Position of Accused
Where the accused is required to attend an appearance for a summary offence and does not, the court may issue a warrant for their arrest.
From Preliminary Inquiry or Trial
Accused absconding during trial
475. (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, where an accused, whether or not he is charged jointly with another, absconds during the course of his trial,
- (a) he shall be deemed to have waived his right to be present at his trial, and
- (b) the court may
- (i) continue the trial and proceed to a judgment or verdict and, if it finds the accused guilty, impose a sentence on him in his absence, or
- (ii) if a warrant in Form 7 is issued for the arrest of the accused, adjourn the trial to await his appearance,
but where the trial is adjourned pursuant to subparagraph (b)(ii), the court may, at any time, continue the trial if it is satisfied that it is no longer in the interests of justice to await the appearance of the accused.
(2) Where a court continues a trial pursuant to subsection (1), it may draw an inference adverse to the accused from the fact that he has absconded.
Accused not entitled to re-opening
(3) Where an accused reappears at his trial that is continuing pursuant to subsection (1), he is not entitled to have any part of the proceedings that was conducted in his absence re-opened unless the court is satisfied that because of exceptional circumstances it is in the interests of justice to re-open the proceedings.
Counsel for accused may continue to act
(4) Where an accused has absconded during the course of his trial and the court continues the trial, counsel for the accused is not thereby deprived of any authority he may have to continue to act for the accused in the proceedings.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 475; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 185(F), c. 1 (4th Supp.), s. 18(F).
For the purpose of s. 475, "abscond" refers to the avoidance of trial "for the purpose of impeding or frustrating" the trial. Merely failure to attend is not enough.
Merely failing to attend for a trial continuation and the withdraw of defence counsel does not permit a finding that the accused "absconded" within the meaning of s. 475.
Accused absconding during inquiry
544. (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, where an accused, whether or not he is charged jointly with another, absconds during the course of a preliminary inquiry into an offence with which he is charged,
- (a) he shall be deemed to have waived his right to be present at the inquiry, and
- (b) the justice
- (i) may continue the inquiry and, when all the evidence has been taken, shall dispose of the inquiry in accordance with section 548, or
- (ii) if a warrant is issued for the arrest of the accused, may adjourn the inquiry to await his appearance,
but where the inquiry is adjourned pursuant to subparagraph (b)(ii), the justice may continue it at any time pursuant to subparagraph (b)(i) if he is satisfied that it would no longer be in the interests of justice to await the appearance of the accused.
(2) Where the justice continues a preliminary inquiry pursuant to subsection (1), he may draw an inference adverse to the accused from the fact that he has absconded.
Accused not entitled to re-opening
(3) Where an accused reappears at a preliminary inquiry that is continuing pursuant to subsection (1), he is not entitled to have any part of the proceedings that was conducted in his absence re-opened unless the justice is satisfied that because of exceptional circumstances it is in the interests of justice to re-open the inquiry.
Counsel for accused may continue to act
(4) Where an accused has absconded during the course of a preliminary inquiry and the justice continues the inquiry, counsel for the accused is not thereby deprived of any authority he may have to continue to act for the accused in the proceedings.
Accused calling witnesses
(5) Where, at the conclusion of the evidence on the part of the prosecution at a preliminary inquiry that has been continued pursuant to subsection (1), the accused is absent but counsel for the accused is present, he or she shall be given an opportunity to call witnesses on behalf of the accused and subsection 541(5) applies with such modifications as the circumstances require.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 544; 1994, c. 44, s. 55.
Organizations as Accused
- s. 800(3)
- S. 800(3)