Mar 19, 2020
Filkow Law recognizes the evolving situation surrounding COVID-19. Filkow Law remains open to our clients and to assist with new legal cases, including all criminal, driving and ICBC matters.
Filkow Law will conform to the government recommendations for social distancing and we will work remotely as necessary for the benefit of our clients, staff and community. Our lawyers are available by telephone and/or by email and and/or in-person appointments can be arranged as needed.
We are pleased to assist you with your legal matters.
Dec 01, 2019
Filkow Law welcomes criminal defence lawyer Paula Cooper to our legal team. Paula was called to the bar in 2019 after completing her articles at a Surrey criminal defence firm. She primarily practices in the area of criminal law and driving offences.
In 2017, Paula received her law degree from the University of Alberta. While in law school, she competed in the Laskin Moot Court competition and volunteered with Student Legal Services in Edmonton.
Prior to law school, Paula earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in criminology at Simon Fraser University in 2014, and an Associate of Arts degree in creative writing from Douglas College in 2011.
In her spare time, Paula volunteers with various community theatre organizations around the Lower Mainland.
If you are charged with a criminal offence, call Paula at Filkow Law to assist you.
Filkow Law welcomes articled student Michael Scott to our legal team. Michael is finishing his articling year at Filkow Law and will be called to the bar in 2019. Michael has a strong background in civil litigation, and is familiar with civil procedure in both the Provincial and Supreme Courts of British Columbia.
At Filkow Law, Michael assists on various files including traffic tickets, driving offences, ICBC issues, and criminal matters. Michael is focused on resolving client issues favourably, practically, and expeditiously.
Michael obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of British Columbia, while being active in several student leadership organizations. Michael pursued his law degree at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.
In his spare time, Michael plays goalkeeper in recreational soccer leagues. He also enjoys playing rhythm guitar, bass guitar and backup vocals for his band from law school.
If you have a legal matter, call Michael at Filkow Law to assist you.
Oct 28, 2019
The Ontario Court of Appeal recently criticized a trial judge for his conduct throughout a trial involving the death and alleged murder of a longboarder, Ralph Bisonnette, by a taxi driver, Adib Ibrahim. This post will examine what the trial judge did that drew criticism. While the judge’s behaviour did not directly result in a new trial it opens up an interesting discussion on the proper conduct of a judge during the course of any trial at all, let alone a stressful murder trial. This post will also examine an appeal on the grounds of a reasonable apprehension of bias.
The Mistrial Application
On the 14th day of the trial, defence counsel made an application for a mistrial based on a number of different actions performed by the judge throughout the course of the trial. Defence counsel argued that the trial judge’s conduct demonstrated a reasonable apprehension of bias against Mr. Ibrahim.
The test in Canada for establishing a reasonable apprehension of bias is whether “a reasonable person, properly informed and viewing the matter realistically and practically conclude that the decision-maker could decide the case fairly”. In other words, would a reasonable person think the judge could decide fairly?
In support of their application, defence had prepared a number of points illustrating the poor conduct of the trial judge that they argued thereby established a reasonable apprehension of bias:
- The trial judge complained three times about the defence not having a disclosure obligation;
- The trial judge required defence counsel to vet his cross-examination of witnesses ahead of time with the Crown and the court;
- The trial judge accused defence counsel of “trial by ambush” and expressed disappointment in the conduct of defence counsel;
- The trial judge interfered with the cross-examination of a Crown witness;
- The trial judge continually shook his head with disapproval in front of the jury while defence counsel questioned witnesses;
- The trial judge suggested, in the presence of the jury, that defence counsel was wasting time by cross-examining witnesses on videotaped statements, rather than from prepared transcripts;
- The trial judge interfered with the examination of witnesses on a voir dire;
- The trial judge accused defence counsel of attempting to engender the sympathy of the jury through inadmissible evidence;
- The trial judge yelled at defence counsel on numerous occasions;
- The trial judge glared at defence counsel, both in front of and in the absence of the jury; and
- The trial judge constantly interrupted defence counsel during submissions.
In sum, the trial judge was yelling, glaring, interrupting, and otherwise interfering with defence counsel. These allegations were supported by affidavits from defence counsel and employee of defence counsel’s law firm.
After hearing some of the oral submissions on his alleged misbehaviour, the trial judge interjected and stated that he disagreed with virtually all of defence counsel’s points. The Court of Appeal noted that the trial judge frequently made lengthy comments during defence counsel’s submissions, while Crown was permitted to make their submissions without interruption.
Not only did the trial judge deny defence counsel’s allegations, stating “I categorically do not accept that I have yelled at you… [my] normal voice is a very loud and deep voice”, but he also accused defence counsel of “an ethical breach” and of professional misconduct and sharp practice contrary to the Canadian Bar Association’s Code of Professional Conduct.
In the end, the trial judge dismissed the application for a mistrial. The Court of Appeal noted that the trial judge’s written reasons for refusing defence counsel’s mistrial application were remarkably long: 64 single-spaced pages with 49 footnotes. The Court also noted that, throughout his reasons, the trial judge’s displeasure towards defence counsel was “palpable” and even insulting at times.
While the Ontario Court of Appeal ultimately allowed a new appeal on the ground of improper instructions to the jury and dismissed the appeal on reasonable apprehension of bias, they provided substantial commentary on the issue of bias. In particular, they stated that they were concerned with how the mistrial application was handled
The Court of Appeal noted the following:
- The mistrial application was conducted in an “injudicious manner”;
- When a trial judge feels compelled to intervene they should consider courtesy and restraint;
- Allegations regarding a trial judge’s verbal and non-verbal conduct during a trial are serious;
- The duty of the trial judge to maintain composure during the course of a trial is important;
- The trial judge’s conduct was not a model of “judicial decorum”;
- The trial judge is responsible for reducing the stress of conflict;
- The trial judge should not to exacerbate conflict through harsh words, a raised voice, or distracting and hostile non-verbal communications.
However, despite these criticisms, the court did not believe that there was a significant impact to the overall fairness of the trial and that these issues, while improper, did not give rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias.
The decision in this case shows that some tensions and emotions can run high during a criminal trial and result in some conflict between defence counsel and the trial judge. While a trial judge has a duty to exercise courtesy and restraint, a substantial amount of discretion is given to the trial judge on how to conduct a trial. The Court of Appeal clearly sent a message to trial judges by criticizing the conduct of the trial judge in this case, but in the end they would not have concluded that his behaviour gave rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias. Although reasonable apprehension of bias is a possible ground of appeal, it is clear from this decision that the bar for establishing bias based on the conduct of a judge can be quite high.
May 09, 2019
Section 11(e) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms confers the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause. As such, the detention of accused individuals is intended to be the exception, while pre-trial release is the rule. Additionally, the presumption of innocence enshrined in section 11(d) of the Charter provides that one’s liberty should not be taken away prior to conviction, unless justified under section 515(10) of the Criminal Code. Therefore, release with the least onerous conditions is generally favoured over pre-trial detention.
Section 525 of the Criminal Code requires a judicial review of an accused’s detention if the trial has not begun within 90 days. The purpose of this section is to avoid accused persons languishing in pre-trial custody for extended periods of time while awaiting their trial.
There are sound reasons for this. It is more difficult for accused individuals held in pre-trial custody to access legal advice and effectively instruct their counsel. Section 525 provides the opportunity to have a judge reconsider whether the continued detention of an accused person is justified when a trial is not held within 90 days. It is a safeguard that protects an accused’s liberty and is consistent with the presumption of innocence enshrined in section 11(e) of the Charter.
However, until recently, there were two competing lines of authority in British Columbia about how to interpret section 525 detention review hearings. One line of authority ruled that section 525 required a two-step process. The first step required the accused to establish unreasonable Crown delay in bringing the case to trial. If established, the accused then had the burden to show a material change in circumstances under the normal section 515(10) bail provision of the Criminal Code. The other line of authority favoured a one-step process that did not place an onus on the accused to prove unreasonable delay prior to their bail review under section 525. Guidance was needed to determine which of these two competing lines of authority were correct.
Corey Myers’ Experience
On March 28, 2019 the Supreme Court of Canada handed down a unanimous decision of nine Justices in R v. Myers 2019 SCC 18 that effects accused persons in pre-trial custody. The Court unanimously ruled that an accused does not need to establish unreasonable delay in bringing him to trial in order to justify his release under section 525 of the Code. In other words, the Court ruled that section 525 is a one-step, and not a two-step, process.
Corey Myers was arrested and charged with multiple firearm offences in January of 2016. He first sought bail after completing a prior sentence in November 2016, but his application was dismissed as the suggested terms of his bail did not sufficiently address the risk that Myers might commit further offences.
In March 2017, the Crown began a review hearing under section 525 as the 90-day detention period had expired. The British Columbia Supreme Court determined that the test for a section 525 hearing was a two-step process. This provided no recourse for Myers to challenge his detention order as there had been no unreasonable delay in bringing him to trial.
In January 2018, Myers pled guilty to reduced charges and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. However, Myers appealed the British Columbia Supreme Court’s decision that a section 525 bail review hearing required him to show there was unreasonable delay in getting him to trial before he could successfully get bail under that section. Although the appeal was moot since Myers was no longer in pre-trial custody, the Supreme Court of Canada exercised its discretion to hear the appeal anyway.
The New Approach
In Myers, the Court unanimously set forth a new procedure for detention review hearings. The Court ruled that section 525 is an automatic provision laying mandatory obligations on the jailer and judge. Now, the jailer must apply for the hearing immediately after the 90-day period has expired and a judge must set a date and give notice of the hearing to the accused. The accused is not required to prove unreasonable delay in getting to trial to get such a review.
The Court found that Parliament created section 525 to allow a judicial assessment of whether the continued detention of the accused is justified under section 515(10) of the Criminal Code. That section sets out three possible grounds to justify the detention of an accused: where it is necessary to ensure the accused attends court; where it is necessary to protect the safety of the public; and where it is necessary to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice. The Court found that the right to a section 525 review is automatically triggered after 90 days. The Court further ruled that there is no additional requirement to also prove unreasonable delay in getting to trial beyond 90 days in order to succeed and be released from custody.
The judge in a detention review hearing may consider new evidence, changes in the accused’s circumstances, unreasonable delay, and the rationale for the original detention order, in addition to the evidence and submissions in prior bail hearings. Finally, the judge has the discretion under sections 525(9) and 526 to expedite the trial of a detained accused, giving consideration to the risk of unconstitutional delay.
The Myers decision represents a significant change in the law and process surrounding pre-trial detention which will no doubt impact the number of accused persons who seek their release from custody after an initial detention order.
Jun 15, 2018
Cannabis legalization is on the horizon for Canada. There have been many announcements regarding the distribution and possession of marijuana but an additional matter is the impact that this will have on impaired driving. There are pending changes on the federal level but the BC government is proposing to introduce a whole new scheme creating Immediate Roadside Prohibitions for driving while impaired by marijuana and other drugs.
There is much uncertainty about this as there is no established system or method for detecting impairment by marijuana. There are indications that there may be technology in the future that will allow for the presence of marijuana via a saliva test but it is unknown how effective this will be. This leaves police officers with limited options roadside to deal with drivers that they believe are high. Previously, it was common for police officers to issue a 24-hour prohibition for drugs in cases where the officer had reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a drivers ability to operate a vehicle was impaired by drugs. This did not have a review procedure in place. Oftentimes it involved the administration of the Standard Field Sobriety Test or the Drug Recognition Exam by an officer trained in these techniques. Both tests have their issues in that they often can result in false positives. Even blood tests can make it difficult to determine if someone is impaired by marijuana as there is little scientific information available on how much THC needs to be detected in someone’s blood before they are actually impaired. THC can linger in someone’s blood for days or weeks, long after someone is no longer affected by it. This is especially true for medical marijuana users.
The proposed changes create two new driving prohibitions in BC. They will expand upon the 12-hour prohibition for N and L drivers (Class 7 and 7L licenses). Currently, Class 7 drivers cannot have any alcohol in their system while driving. The proposed legislation will expand that to include drugs as well, detected by a “drug screening device”. There is no indication of what these devices will be. This is concerning as 12-hour prohibitions have no review procedure in place. The recourse to dispute one is via judicial review in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, something that is not accessible to the average person and expensive to retain legal counsel for. 12-hour prohibitions also result in RoadSafetyBC prohibiting a Class 7 driver for a longer period, usually by several months. If a driver refuses to comply with a demand to provide a sample for a “drug screening device” they will also receive a 12-hour prohibition. It is concerning that a lengthy driving prohibition in the length of months will result from a prohibition with no established review procedure.
The more serious offence that is being created is a 90-day immediate roadside prohibition for drugs, similar to the current roadside prohibition available for alcohol. This provides three ways for a police officer to issue you a 90-day prohibition; a blood test showing above a specified level in your blood within 2 hours of driving, or having a combination of a specified level of alcohol and drugs in your blood.
These 90-day reviews will have specified grounds of review. These include consuming the drugs after ceasing operation of the vehicle (and that the driver had no reasonable expectation that they would be required to provide a sample of blood), that the person was not impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol and the results of the evaluation were due to a medical condition. Much alike the 90-day alcohol immediate roadside prohibitions for alcohol, the demands and testing will mirror the provisions in the Criminal Code. Given the forthcoming changes to the Criminal Code on impaired driving regarding alcohol and drugs, these are likely going to be contested in court. The taking of blood samples is an intrusive means and not easily accomplished roadside by police officers. Furthermore, current drug impairment testing procedures have many options for false positives and inaccurate results.
This will be an interesting development in driving law and will likely result in extensive legal disputes. The tests that are yet to be established will be fundamental to this regime, and its fairness as there is no current effective manner to detect drug impairment. As we are familiar and successful in both criminal impaired driving and the existing IRP scheme, we look forward to assisting our clients with defending charges under this pending regime
May 25, 2018
Most of us have been victims of crime in our lives. Maybe you have been threatened or stolen from; these types of offences inconvenience you for a short time, but most of the time, you can move past them. But what if it is something more serious?
We hear about things that have happened to a friend of a friend, or we see stories on the news, and we hope that’s never us- the victim of a domestic assault, a robbery, and break and enter, a sexual assault, or worse…
We are a criminal defence law firm. We have extensive experience defending those charged with all these types of crimes. However, we also have a unique expertise in assisting victims of crime. Before joining Filkow Law, I was a Crown Attorney in the north, prosecuting violent offences against children. During my time as a prosecutor, I helped dozens if not hundreds of deeply traumatized and vulnerable victims of crime and witnesses navigate the court process and participate in the criminal justice system. I am proud to have brought that experience to Filkow Law, and to have helped develop this as an area of practice for our firm. We are now considered a leader in acting for complainants and witnesses.
If you have found yourself unfortunately standing in those unenviable shoes, having been victimized by crime, there are some things you can expect as the wheels of justice begin to turn.
First, depending on the type of offence, you may be subjected to numerous and ongoing interviews and exams. The police and medical professionals sometimes have a very small window in which to gather evidence against your offender. During this time, you may be struggling to process things yourself and it can feel like investigators are not sensitive to your experience. On the other hand, in some cases you may feel like investigators are not going fast enough. You have gone to police and provided what you think is good evidence, and months have gone by without any movement towards an arrest or charge- why haven’t they done anything about it? The law has developed significantly in recent years which make the timing and nature of the investigation very critical to the case. We are very familiar having acted for both sides with how this process should work. Not only can we help you navigate this confusing and frustrating whirlwind that is the beginning of a case, but we can also liaise with the various players (investigating officers, charge approval Crowns, victims’ services workers, the media) on your behalf. You may want things to move slower, or faster, you may want more information, or you may want the process to stop altogether. We can advocate for your position, whatever it may be.
Once charges are laid, the case moves from the investigation stage into the courts. The time between the first court appearance and the conclusion of the case either by trial or sentencing may take anywhere from a month or two to several years. As a victim or witness, you may feel frustrated during this process because the case becomes all about the accused. The accused gets a lawyer of his or her choice who stands up in court asserting his client’s rights and demanding certain things from the Crown and court. The case may drag on for months and months with nothing happening and all you keep hearing about is the accused’s rights. Meanwhile, you are being told exactly how you must cooperate in order to avoid being charged yourself. As the matter works its way through the courts, the Crown will speak with you periodically, and they may be informative and seem supportive, but it is important to realize that the Crown is not your lawyer. Their obligation is to be fair to the accused and the law, not to advocate for your interests. You are merely their witness. The only way to ensure you are getting all the information, options, and a realistic idea of consequences of your choices, is to retain your own counsel.
Finally, the matter will either be dropped, proceed to a guilty plea and sentencing, or a trial. You may hope for one of these things above the others. Communicating with the Crown directly can be counter-productive in this regard. Remember, they are not your lawyer; they have their own interests which are quite different than yours. However, if you have your own counsel, we can tell you what decisions you can make which will likely lead to certain outcomes.
If the case goes the distance and you find yourself with a subpoena to testify at a trial, it may be over a year after you first became victimized by the accused. Your memory will be put to the test. But your heart will be tested harder. You will have to sit in a closed space, the accused watching you as you speak, his lawyer treating you like a liar, or a drunk, or a slut… This may be the first time you have had to face him since the incident, or this may end a long string of him attempting to dissuade you from testifying. Either way, here you are. If you weren’t feeling victimized before, you certainly are now- at least if you didn’t know what to expect and were not prepared.
The Crown can let you review your statement before testifying and will give you some pointers on how court works. But, again, the only way to be fully prepared is with your own counsel. Having prosecuting hundreds of cases, I can walk you through every possible question and situation in advance of the trial. My favorite exercise that I use to prepare my victim/witness clients to testify is a role play; first I play the Crown and ask them every question the Crown can possibly ask, and then I play the defence lawyer, and cross-examine them way harder than they will likely ever be cross-examined in court. The opportunity for my clients to go through this process in a private setting, in the safety and comfort of my office before facing the accused in trial, has proven invaluable and unmatchable by any other means. Just remember that if you get tripped up, riled up, or choked up while testifying it can make the difference between guilty and not guilty. Don’t get caught off guard. Let us help you prepare. We can stand up for your rights as a victim of crime. Contact us if you have been victimized.
May 11, 2018
A lot of clients come to us after several weeks or months of trying to represent themselves. But the courts and the Crown know the importance of everyone being represented and urge people to retain counsel, usually until they do. In many cases, it is understandable that a person would want to save the cost of hiring a lawyer. Perhaps you don’t qualify for legal aid because you earn a substantial income or you are not facing jail. Perhaps you see the charges you are facing as not very serious. But most of all, you trust the process; you know the Crown is supposed to be fair and the Judge, impartial. No one is yelling or banging their fists on the tables in our courts like they are on TV, and every time you have stood in court yourself, the whole thing seems to exude decorum and professionalism. So, you trust that you don’t need a criminal defence lawyer in order to be treated fairly.
In many cases, your assumption would be true. You may not get the same results without counsel, but usually you won’t get railroaded. However, it does happen. This is why, under no circumstances, should one ever represent himself.
It is disappointing and frankly shocking that in 2018 in Canada, you could be subject to absolute injustice by the criminal justice system itself. But it happens, and it may happen so subtly, you don’t even realize it. This is why it is imperative that you have good counsel at your side, no matter how minor you think your charges may be.
I recently represented a client in Kelowna for a serious matter. The client was not interested in a fight; she was only interested in taking responsibility, pleading guilty, and accepting whatever sentence the Judge saw fit to impose. My only job was to make sure the Court had all the important information about my client and appreciated all of the positive steps my client had taken. It became abundantly clear as the sentencing proceeded that this would be no easy task.
Right from the start, the Judge engaged in behaviors and facial expressions which conveyed to us that she had already made up her mind without having all the information. It was not subtle, and the stakes were very high. If my client were self-represented, she likely would have told herself that she was simply unlucky and that she would have to accept the cards she was dealt, namely, this Judge as the sentencing Judge.
Luckily for my client, I knew better. My client, like any and every accused, has certain rights and I will insist upon those rights from before a charge is laid until sentence is pronounced. Not only am I talking about Charter Rights such as the right to make full answer and defence, the right to silence, and the right not to be arbitrarily detained, for example, but also certain rights that are so basic and fundamental, you won’t find them in any Code or legislation. We don’t often have to articulate these rights because they’re taken for granted… until they are being denied. These are the Principles of Natural Justice.
You have a right to be heard. You have a right to reply to the Crown. You have a right to a full and thorough hearing (whether a trial or sentencing) which is not only in fact fair, but also appears to be fair. And you have a right to all of these things in a meaningful way, not just on the surface. When I realized almost every one of these principles was being violated for my client in Kelowna, I put a stop to the hearing immediately. I moved for the Judge to remove herself from the case, and had the matter rescheduled. In the week that followed, I conducted extensive case law research on the Principles of Natural Justice, filed a detailed written application outlining the apprehension of bias that permeated the hearing, and demanded an oral hearing and right to reply to Crown on the matter. In the end, we were able to take control of the situation.
If someone in my client’s situation were self-represented and had proceeded without counsel, almost certainly, they would have received an unfair sentence. Because even if the sentence had been within the range, it would have been higher than it otherwise would have been because of obvious preconceptions by the Judge. This would have made it nearly impossible to appeal for two reasons, first, because facial expressions and non verbal behaviors will not appear on a transcript of the proceedings, and second, because a self-represented person would not have raised it as a concern at the hearing, making the question on appeal- well why didn’t you say something at the time?
These situations don’t arise often. But they do arise. When they do, the situation is often dynamic, urgent, and delicate. If you don’t have experienced counsel to protect you, what should have been a simple, non serious matter can quickly turn into a high stakes fight for your future. This is why under no circumstances should one ever represent himself. If you have a case you need assistance with please don’t hesitate to contact us.
As we know, fault is the name of the game in compensation for civil personal injury claims. If you want damages for something (such as for your injuries suffered in a car accident), you have to show why the other party involved caused you to suffer a loss. Just being hurt is not enough. Causation is key. Entire trials are run just to determine who caused what damage, separate and apart from determining what the damage actually is.
If you are stopped at a red light and the evidence is that you were rear-ended by a speeding driver, your legal position is obviously very strong, and any damages you can prove will be easier to demand from the other side during litigation or settlement negotiations. But if the evidence is that you were the careless driver, then don’t expect ICBC to pay much for your injuries that resulted from the crash. They will say that you were the author of your own misfortune.
But those are extremes. Fault is often the subject of debate – such as in cases where the car accident is the result of a left turn or a lane change. In cases like these, legal fault is less clear and it’s the discovery of all the facts that governs the outcome of the case. For example, it would be important to know things like, how fast was each car going? Are there any witnesses who can advise on how the accident took place? Is there any video showing the accident? Which motorist is worthy of blame for the accident? Or, if both of them are, which motorist is worthy of more of the blame? At trial, if the court rules that the plaintiff driver is 25% to blame for the accident and the defendant 75%, then obviously the plaintiff can only be awarded 75% of the value of his or her proven damages.
Sometimes a person might say, “I was in an accident. But the other driver came up to me after the crash and kept apologizing, so he should be at fault.”
Not so fast. While the testimony of what witnesses will say can be evidence of some things, the law will not allow apologies to be evidence of fault. It’s codified in a statute called the Apology Act. The court will not care about who apologized for what after an accident, no matter how polite the defendant was at the scene. The court will want evidence of facts respecting how the accident took place.
So fault matters. The exception is when you are trying to obtain accident benefits under your insurance contract with ICBC – such as payment of reasonable medical expenses. Those benefits are generally payable regardless of who caused the accident. They are also known as “no fault” benefits.
If you are injured in a car accident, tell us everything about how it took place. Contact us and we’ll advise on the nature of your claim.