Amendments to Charges

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General Principles

Section 601 governs defects to an information or indictment.[1] It permits informations or indictments to be quashed or amended.

Amending defective indictment or count
601. (1) An objection to an indictment preferred under this Part or to a count in an indictment, for a defect apparent on its face, shall be taken by motion to quash the indictment or count before the accused enters a plea, and, after the accused has entered a plea, only by leave of the court before which the proceedings take place. The court before which an objection is taken under this section may, if it considers it necessary, order the indictment or count to be amended to cure the defect.
Amendment where variance
(2) Subject to this section, a court may, on the trial of an indictment, amend the indictment or a count therein or a particular that is furnished under section 587, to make the indictment, count or particular conform to the evidence, where there is a variance between the evidence and

(a) a count in the indictment as preferred; or
(b) a count in the indictment
(i) as amended, or
(ii) as it would have been if it had been amended in conformity with any particular that has been furnished pursuant to section 587.

Amending indictment
(3) Subject to this section, a court shall, at any stage of the proceedings, amend the indictment or a count therein as may be necessary where it appears

(a) that the indictment has been preferred under a particular Act of Parliament instead of another Act of Parliament;
(b) that the indictment or a count thereof
(i) fails to state or states defectively anything that is requisite to constitute the offence,
(ii) does not negative an exception that should be negatived,
(iii) is in any way defective in substance,
and the matters to be alleged in the proposed amendment are disclosed by the evidence taken on the preliminary inquiry or on the trial; or
(c) that the indictment or a count thereof is in any way defective in form.

[(4) to (11)]
...
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 601; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 123; 1999, c. 5, s. 23(E); 2011, c. 16, s. 6. 602. [Repealed, R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 124]


CCC

The section addresses three situations:

  1. An application of the accused for quashing an indictment as a nullity;
  2. The Crown or judge amends the indictment to correct a defect; or
  3. the Crown seeks an amendment to conform to the evidence at a preliminary inquiry or trial.

The Crown must prove the charge as particularized in the information or indictment.[2]

Where there is a variance between the information and the evidence on the time, place, person, or subject will still make out the charge unless those elements are vital to the defence.[3]

Mistakes to heading of indictment will not affect its validity.(s. 601(8))

Under s. 601(3)(b) and (c), the court may amend the form or substance of an information at any stage of the proceeding.[4]

Amendments prior to the defendant electing to call evidence will often be permitted.[5]

Amendments to an information is a question of law (s. 601(6)):

601
...
Question of law (6) The question whether an order to amend an indictment or a count thereof should be granted or refused is a question of law.
...


It is not possible to amend the charge to the effect of charging a different offence.[6]

Where an amendment is granted, the judge must endorse the indictment or information. [7]

  1. Section 601 specifically deals with indictable offences, but s. 795 allows it to equally apply to summary offences
  2. R v Saunders, 1990 CanLII 1131 (SCC), [1990] 1 SCR 1020, 56 CCC (3d) 220
  3. R v G.B., 1990 CanLII 114 (SCC), [1990] 2 SCR 30 - variation of time
    R v Whynott (1975), 27 CCC (2d) 321 (N.S. C.A.) variation of place
    R v Gooderham, 2004 BCCA 248 (CanLII) - variation to person
  4. e.g. see R v McConnell, 2005 CanLII 13781 (ONCA)
  5. R v M. (E.A.D.), 2008 MBCA 78 (MBCA)
  6. Gunn v The Queen, 1982 CanLII 174 (SCC), [1982] 1 SCR 522
    R v Rinnie, 71 W.W.R. 272, 9 C.R.N.S. 81, [1970] 3 CCC 218 (Alta. C.A.)
  7. section 601(7) ("An order to amend an indictment or a count therein shall be endorsed on the indictment as part of the record and the proceedings shall continue as if the indictment or count had been originally preferred as amended.")

Motion to Quash

Under s. 601(1), the accused may object to indictment or charge by way of a motion to quash.

Amending defective indictment or count
601. (1) An objection to an indictment preferred under this Part or to a count in an indictment, for a defect apparent on its face, shall be taken by motion to quash the indictment or count before the accused enters a plea, and, after the accused has entered a plea, only by leave of the court before which the proceedings take place. The court before which an objection is taken under this section may, if it considers it necessary, order the indictment or count to be amended to cure the defect.
...
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 601; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 123; 1999, c. 5, s. 23(E); 2011, c. 16, s. 6.


CCC


This motion must be made before a plea is entered. The motion may only be made after plea with leave of the Court.[1]

The key issue is considering whether to quash an indictment or charge would depend on whether the accused was "reasonably informed of the transaction alleged against him, thus giving him the possibility of a full defence and a fair trial"[2] and whether the charging document gives "fair notice of the offence to the accused".[3]

There remains little discretion to quash unless the charge is an "absolute nullity".[4] Instead, s. 601 provides for "very wide powers to cure any defect in a charge by amending it".[5]

A time frame on an information that is so broad to not permit the accused to identify the time of the transaction is a nullity.[6]

  1. R v B.(G.) 1990 CanLII 115 (SCC), [1990] 2 SCR 57
  2. R v Cote (1977), 33 CCC (2d) 353, 1977 CanLII 1 (SCC), [1978] 1 SCR 8 at p. 357 (cited to CCC)
  3. R v Moore, 1988 CanLII 43 (SCC), [1988] 1 SCR 1097, (1988), 41 CCC (3d) 289 (SCC) at p. 297 (cited to CCC)
  4. R v Moore at p. 311
  5. Moore, ibid. at para 59
  6. R v B.(G.) - citing R v Colgan for 6 years range of dates for a theft

Timing of Amendment

An application under s. 601(2) and 601(3)(b)(i) can only be made once evidence had been heard by the judge.[1]

An amendment to conform to the evidence may be made after the motion for dismissal but before the defence calls evidence.[2]

  1. R v McConnell, 2005 CanLII 13781 (ON CA), (2005) 196 CCC (3d) 28 (ONCA)
  2. R v Powell, [1965] 3 CCC 349 (BCCA)

Mandatory Amendments to Defects

Under s. 601(3) defects to an information or charge must be amended by the judge.

601.
...
Amending indictment
(3) Subject to this section, a court shall, at any stage of the proceedings, amend the indictment or a count therein as may be necessary where it appears

(a) that the indictment has been preferred under a particular Act of Parliament instead of another Act of Parliament;
(b) that the indictment or a count thereof
(i) fails to state or states defectively anything that is requisite to constitute the offence,
(ii) does not negative an exception that should be negatived,
(iii) is in any way defective in substance,

and the matters to be alleged in the proposed amendment are disclosed by the evidence taken on the preliminary inquiry or on the trial; or

(c) that the indictment or a count thereof is in any way defective in form.

...

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 601; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 123; 1999, c. 5, s. 23(E); 2011, c. 16, s. 6.


CCC


Amendments to Conform to the Evidence at Trial or Preliminary Inquiry

Section 601(2) provides the judge with discretionary authority to amend the information or charge to conform with the evidence.

601.
...
Amendment where variance
(2) Subject to this section, a court may, on the trial of an indictment, amend the indictment or a count therein or a particular that is furnished under section 587, to make the indictment, count or particular conform to the evidence, where there is a variance between the evidence and

(a) a count in the indictment as preferred; or
(b) a count in the indictment
(i) as amended, or
(ii) as it would have been if it had been amended in conformity with any particular that has been furnished pursuant to section 587.

...

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 601; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 123; 1999, c. 5, s. 23(E); 2011, c. 16, s. 6.


CCC

Where a trial or preliminary inquiry has commenced, the crown or judge may amend the information under s. 601(2) to conform to the evidence as it comes out.[1]

There is however no power to amend under s. 601 until such time as evidence has been heard establishing the variance.[2]

When an application to amend is made, the judge should:[3]

  1. determine whether there was a variance between the information and the evidence;
  2. determine whether the requested amendment will make the information conform with the evidence;
  3. consider the factors enumerated in s. 601(4)

The issue in determining whether to permit an amendment is whether the amendment would cause "irreparable" prejudice to the accused.[4]

Under s.601(4.1), variations between the evidence and the time or jurisdiction set out in the information are not materials where the indictment was preferred within the limitation period or where the matter arose in the geographical jurisdiction of the court.

Even though the difference in between the evidence and charge of when the offence occurred may not be material, the judge cannot direct a jury to disregard this difference as it may be used to assess credibility.[5]

  1. See also s. 601(3)(b)(i)
  2. R v McConnell, 2005 CanLII 13781 (ON CA) at para 20
  3. Picot v R., 2013 NBCA 26 (CanLII) - only lists the first and third of the three steps
  4. Morozuk v The Queen, 1986 CanLII 72 (SCC), [1986] 1 SCR 31
    R v Campbell, 1986 CanLII 35 (SCC), [1986] 2 SCR 376
    R v Côté, 1996 CanLII 170 (SCC), [1996] 3 SCR 139, [1996] S.C.J. No. 93
    R v P. (M.B.), 1994 CanLII 125 (SCC), [1994] 1 SCR 555
    R v Tremblay, 1993 CanLII 115 (SCC), [1993] 2 SCR 932
    Vézina and Côté v The Queen, 1986 CanLII 93 (SCC), [1986] 1 SCR 2
  5. R v C. (M.H.) 1991 CanLII 94 (SCC), [1991] 1 SCR 763

Components of the Charge

The courts have distinguished between "essential" components of allegations and those that are "surplusage". [1]

Where the evidence at a preliminary inquiry does not establish the essential elements the charge must be dismissed or amended to meet the evidence. However, if the allegation is surplusage (or incidental) to the charge then it does not need to be satisfied or modified to achieve committal or conviction.[2]

Surplusage
Where the particulars of a charge are not essential to constitute a charge, it will be a surplusage and will not need to be proven.[3]

  1. R v B(G) (No 2) (1990) 56 CCC (3d) 200, 1990 CanLII 115 (SCC), [1990] 2 SCR 57
  2. R v B(G)
  3. R v Cote, 1986 CanLII 93 (SCC), [1986] 1 SCR 2, (1986) 23 CCC (3d) 481 citing Ewaschuk Criminal Pleadings and Practice in Canada

Factors to Consider

Section 601(4) sets out factors the court should consider:

601.
...
Matters to be considered by the court
(4) The court shall, in considering whether or not an amendment should be made to the indictment or a count in it, consider

(a) the matters disclosed by the evidence taken on the preliminary inquiry;
(b) the evidence taken on the trial, if any;
(c) the circumstances of the case;
(d) whether the accused has been misled or prejudiced in his defence by any variance, error or omission mentioned in subsection (2) or (3); and
(e) whether, having regard to the merits of the case, the proposed amendment can be made without injustice being done.

...
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 601; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 123; 1999, c. 5, s. 23(E); 2011, c. 16, s. 6.


CCC


The factors in s. 601(4) are mandatory considerations and a failure to consider them may invalidate the amendment.[1]

The purpose of these factors is to ensure procedural fairness.[2]

  1. R v Olson, 2004 ABPC 142 (CanLII) at para 26
    R v Geary (1960), 126 CCC 325 (Alta. C.A.)
  2. Olson at para 26

Prejudice

An amendment will not be granted where the defence is prejudiced by the amendment. To be "prejudiced", the amendment must be create an offence the accused was unaware of or alter the manner in which the defence is conducted.[1]

An amendment may not substitute completely separate charges or otherwise "fundamentally" change the case against the accused.[2]

However, a correction in the section number alone is permissible at any point prior to the conclusion of trial.[3]

An amendment of a merely "technical error" should be allowed so the matter can be dealt with on the merits.[4]

Under s. 601(5), where an accused is prejudiced by "a variance, error or omission" the court may adjourn the proceedings:

601
...
Adjournment if accused prejudiced
(5) Where, in the opinion of the court, the accused has been misled or prejudiced in his defence by a variance, error or omission in an indictment or a count therein, the court may, if it is of the opinion that the misleading or prejudice may be removed by an adjournment, adjourn the proceedings to a specified day or sittings of the court and may make such an order with respect to the payment of costs resulting from the necessity for amendment as it considers desirable.
...
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 601; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 123; 1999, c. 5, s. 23(E); 2011, c. 16, s. 6.


CCC

The court should consider the materials in the possession of the defence including disclosure and evidence adduced during a preliminary inquiry.[5]


  1. R v Ali, 2008 ABCA 361 (CanLII)
  2. R v Charlton and Ostere (1976), 30 CCC (2d) 372 (BCCA)
  3. R v Hubek, 2011 ABCA 254 (CanLII) at para 14
  4. R v Cousineau, [1982] O.J. No 150 (ONCA) at para 9 - court overturned judge's refusal to amend a serial number named in a charge of possession of stolen property
  5. R v Robinson, 2001 CanLII 24059 (ON CA) at para 23 - context of considering sufficiency of charge

Amendment of Time, Date, or Location of Offence

See also: Time and Place

Time is normally not an essential element that the crown must prove.[1]

601
...
Variance not material
(4.1) A variance between the indictment or a count therein and the evidence taken is not material with respect to

(a) the time when the offence is alleged to have been committed, if it is proved that the indictment was preferred within the prescribed period of limitation, if any; or
(b) the place where the subject-matter of the proceedings is alleged to have arisen, if it is proved that it arose within the territorial jurisdiction of the court.

...

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 601; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 123; 1999, c. 5, s. 23(E); 2011, c. 16, s. 6.


CCC

Section 601 "codifies the common law rule that the date of an offence need not be proven unless it is an "essential element" of the offence pursuant".[2]

Where the time specified on the information is not consistent with the evidence and time is not an essential element of the offence, then the variance is not material and a conviction may still hold.[3]

Time will be essential where:

  1. there is alibi evidence,[4]
  2. the age of the complainant is an essential element,[5]
  3. age of a party is relevant to a defence,[6]
  4. the age of the accused as an adult,[7]

Where there is a variance between the date of the offence on the information and the evidence it is a misdirection to instruct a jury to disregard the variance.[8]

  1. R v KM, 2008 CanLII 1540 (ON SC) at para 132
  2. R v P(MB), 1994 CanLII 125 (SCC), [1994] 1 SCR 555 dissenting on another issue
    see also R v B(G) 1990 CanLII 114 (SCC), [1990] 2 SCR 30 - 601 was replacing the former s. 732(4) that had identical language
  3. R v B(G)
    R v Robinson, 2005 NSCA 65 (CanLII) at para 12
  4. R v B., R., 1999 CanLII 1670 (ON CA), at para 1, 6-9, 17-8, 20-2, 27
    R v Oziel, 1997 CanLII 549 (ON CA), [1997] O.J. No. 1185 (C.A.) at para 4
  5. KM, supra at para 132
  6. KM, supra at para 132
  7. R v C(G), 1996 CanLII 6634 (NL CA), (1996), 110 CCC (3d) 233 (Nfld. & Lab. C.A.) at 274-8
    R v Daniels, (1995), 136 Sask. R. 57 (Q.B.)(*no link) at para 1, 3, 8
  8. R v C.(M.H.), 1991 CanLII 94 (SCC), [1991] 1 SCR 763

Amendment on Appeal

An indictment may be amended on appeal to conform to the evidence so long as the accused is not "mislead" or "prejudiced".[1]

  1. R v Brownson, 2013 ONCA 619 (CanLII)

See Also