Procedural Powers of a Preliminary Inquiry Judge

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General Principles

Powers of justice
537 (1) A justice acting under this Part may

(a) adjourn an inquiry from time to time and change the place of hearing, where it appears to be desirable to do so by reason of the absence of a witness, the inability of a witness who is ill to attend at the place where the justice usually sits or for any other sufficient reason;
(b) remand the accused to custody for the purposes of the Identification of Criminals Act;
(c) except where the accused is authorized pursuant to Part XVI to be at large, remand the accused to custody in a prison by warrant in Form 19;
(d) resume an inquiry before the expiration of a period for which it has been adjourned with the consent of the prosecutor and the accused or his counsel;
(e) order in writing, in Form 30, that the accused be brought before him, or any other justice for the same territorial division, at any time before the expiration of the time for which the accused has been remanded;
(f) grant or refuse permission to the prosecutor or his counsel to address him in support of the charge, by way of opening or summing up or by way of reply on any evidence that is given on behalf of the accused;
(g) receive evidence on the part of the prosecutor or the accused, as the case may be, after hearing any evidence that has been given on behalf of either of them;
(h) order that no person other than the prosecutor, the accused and their counsel shall have access to or remain in the room in which the inquiry is held, where it appears to him that the ends of justice will be best served by so doing;
(i) regulate the course of the inquiry in any way that appears to the justice to be consistent with this Act and that, unless the justice is satisfied that to do so would be contrary to the best interests of the administration of justice, is in accordance with any admission of fact or agreement recorded under subsection 536.4(2) or agreement made under section 536.5;
(j) where the prosecutor and the accused so agree, permit the accused to appear by counsel or by closed-circuit television or any other means that allow the court and the accused to engage in simultaneous visual and oral communication, for any part of the inquiry other than a part in which the evidence of a witness is taken;
(j.1) permit, on the request of the accused, that the accused be out of court during the whole or any part of the inquiry on any conditions that the justice considers appropriate; and
(k) for any part of the inquiry other than a part in which the evidence of a witness is taken, require an accused who is confined in prison to appear by closed-circuit television or any other means that allow the court and the accused to engage in simultaneous visual and oral communication, if the accused is given the opportunity to communicate privately with counsel, in a case in which the accused is represented by counsel.

Section 715
(1.01) Where a justice grants a request under paragraph (1)(j.1), the Court must inform the accused that the evidence taken during his or her absence could still be admissible under section 715.

Inappropriate questioning
(1.1) A justice acting under this Part shall order the immediate cessation of any part of an examination or cross-examination of a witness that is, in the opinion of the justice, abusive, too repetitive or otherwise inappropriate.

Change of venue
(2) Where a justice changes the place of hearing under paragraph (1)(a) to a place in the same province, other than a place in a territorial division in which the justice has jurisdiction, any justice who has jurisdiction in the place to which the hearing is changed may continue the hearing.

(3) and (4) [Repealed, 1991, c. 43, s. 9]

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 537; 1991, c. 43, s. 9; 1994, c. 44, s. 53; 1997, c. 18, s. 64; 2002, c. 13, s. 28; 2008, c. 18, s. 22.

538 Where an accused is an organization, subsections 556(1) and (2) apply with such modifications as the circumstances require.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 538; 2003, c. 21, s. 8.

Powers described in s. 537 should be "interpreted broadly so that the judge can carry out his mandate effectively."[1]

The accused right to disclosure has no connection with the course of the preliminary inquiry. The power of the court to ensure that disclosure is met is not affected by the inquiry process.[2] Unavailable evidence that would assist in full answer and defence has no bearing on the preliminary inquiry process.[3]

  1. R v Swystun, 1990 CanLII 7682 (SKCA)
    R v Stinert, 2015 ABPC 4 (CanLII) at para 41
  2. R v Girimonte (1997), 1997 CanLII 1866 (ON CA), 121 CCC (3d) 33, 12 CR (5th) 332 (Ont CA)
    R v Paulishyn, 2017 ABQB 61 (CanLII)
  3. Paulishyn, ibid.

Focus Hearings

Order for hearing
536.4 (1) The justice before whom a preliminary inquiry is to be held may order, on application of the prosecutor or the accused or on the justice’s own motion, that a hearing be held, within the period fixed by rules of court made under section 482 or 482.1 or, if there are no such rules, by the justice, to

(a) assist the parties to identify the issues on which evidence will be given at the inquiry;
(b) assist the parties to identify the witnesses to be heard at the inquiry, taking into account the witnesses’ needs and circumstances; and
(c) encourage the parties to consider any other matters that would promote a fair and expeditious inquiry.

Agreement to be recorded
(2) When the hearing is completed, the justice shall record any admissions of fact agreed to by the parties and any agreement reached by the parties.
2002, c. 13, s. 27.

Agreement to limit scope of preliminary inquiry
536.5 Whether or not a hearing is held under section 536.4 in respect of a preliminary inquiry, the prosecutor and the accused may agree to limit the scope of the preliminary inquiry to specific issues. An agreement shall be filed with the court or recorded under subsection 536.4(2), as the case may be.
2002, c. 13, s. 27.

Publication Bans

See also: Public and Media Restrictions

There are several publication bans available for preliminary inquires:

  • complainant's identity (s. 486.4(1) and (2), 486.4(3) [mandatory]; s. 486.4(1), 486.5(1))
  • accused's confessions (s. 542) [mandatory]
  • evidence of preliminary inquiry (s. 539)
  • witnesse's identity (s. 486.5(1))
  • justice system participant's identity (s. 486.2(5))