June 28, 2012 - Benefit of the Doubt.

Benefit of the Doubt

Quoted in R. v. Cole (1982) 37 O.R. (2d) 144the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada reported as Winnipeg Film Society v. Webster, [1964] S.C.R 280, 44 D.L.R (2d) 126, [1964] 3 C.C.C. 6, sub nom, Winnipeg Film Society v. The Queen on the Information of Webster. Mr. Justice Ritchie is quoted on page 12 C.C.C.:

"The relevant rule governing the construction of penal statutes is well summarized in 36 Hals., 3rd ed., p. 415:

"It is a general rule that penal enactments are to be construed strictly, and not extended beyond their clear rneaning. At the present day. this general rule means no more than that ifafter the ordinary rules of construction have first been applied, as they must b[e], there remains any doubt or ambiguity, the person against whom the penalty is sought to be enforced is entitled to the benefit of the doubt.

"The matter was succinctly stated by Lord Simonds in London North Eastern R. Co. v. Berriman, [1946] AC. 278 at pp. 313-4 where he said: "A man is not to be put in peril upon an ambiguity, however much or little the purpose of the Act appeals to the predilection the court."

This doesn't seem to be the way things work in our statutory courts. The judges do not rule on the presentments at trial, they take a few weeks to act as a prosecutor to refute the "man's" position.

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