section 274

INTRODUCTION AND BRIEF DESCRIPTION

Corroboration is not required for certain sexual offence charges and judges cannot instruct the jury that corroboration is necessary for a conviction.

SECTION WORDING

274 If an accused is charged with an offence under section 151, 152, 153, 153.1, 155, 159, 160, 170, 171, 172, 173, 212, 271, 272 or 273, no corroboration is required for a conviction and the judge shall not instruct the jury that it is unsafe to find the accused guilty in the absence of corroboration.

EXPLANATION

Section 274 of the Criminal Code of Canada outlines special rules that apply to cases where an individual faces charges related to sexual offences. The listed offences in this section all involve sexual activity with a child or otherwise vulnerable person, or offences that involve the distribution or possession of child pornography. The significance of this section is that it eliminates the requirement of corroborating evidence in order to secure a conviction in these types of cases. Corroborating evidence is evidence that supports the testimony of a witness and can help to validate the truth of their statements. In most cases, this type of evidence is required in order to secure a conviction. However, in cases involving sexual offences listed in Section 274, such evidence is no longer necessary. The absence of the requirement for corroboration highlights the gravity of these offences and the Canadian government's commitment to prosecuting those accused of them vigorously. The special rules under Section 274 also prohibit judges from instructing juries that it is unsafe to find an accused guilty in the absence of corroborating evidence. This places a great deal of weight on the testimony of the survivors of sexual offences, affording them a greater degree of credibility than in other types of criminal cases. In sum, Section 274 of the Criminal Code serves as a reminder of the severe nature of sexual offences, and reflects the requirement for special consideration and measures in order to secure justice for those who have been victimized. The elimination of the requirement for corroborating evidence represents an effort to address the systemic barriers and biases that often prevent survivors of sexual offences from accessing justice and to support their efforts of healing and recovery.

COMMENTARY

Section 274 of the Criminal Code of Canada has been a controversial provision since its enactment. The section deals with the question of corroboration in certain cases where the accused is charged with sexual offences. Specifically, if an accused is charged with any of the offences listed in section 274, no corroboration is required for a conviction. This means that the judge is not required to instruct the jury that it is unsafe to find the accused guilty in the absence of corroboration. The provision was enacted in 1983 and was intended to strengthen the prosecution of sexual offences. Before this provision came into place, juries were often instructed to be wary of convicting someone solely on the basis of the complainant's testimony. The reason for this was that sexual offences often took place in private, without any witnesses. The complainants and the accused were the only people who knew what had transpired. As a result, the prosecutions often failed due to lack of corroboration. Section 274 was enacted to address this issue. The rationale behind the provision was that sexual offences were often committed in private and that it was unreasonable and unfair to require corroboration in those circumstances. The provision was meant to encourage complainants to come forward and report sexual offences, with the hope that perpetrators would be brought to justice. However, section 274 has been criticized by some as being overly permissive and leading to wrongful convictions. According to some critics, the provision has led to a shift in the burden of proof from the prosecution to the accused. Some argue that section 274 amounts to a presumption of guilt, since the complainant's testimony alone is enough to secure a conviction. Moreover, critics contend that section 274 is inconsistent with the fundamental principle that an accused is innocent until proven guilty. This principle requires the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Some argue that section 274 makes that burden of proof more difficult to meet. Finally, others argue that section 274 is inconsistent with the principle of judicial neutrality. This principle requires the judge to be impartial and to balance the interests of the parties before rendering a decision. Section 274 is said to favor the prosecution and to put undue pressure on the judge to find the accused guilty. In conclusion, section 274 of the Criminal Code of Canada has been a controversial provision since its enactment. While it was intended to strengthen the prosecution of sexual offences, it has been criticized by some for being overly permissive and leading to wrongful convictions. Ultimately, the provision raises important questions about the proper balance between protecting victims of sexual assault and ensuring the rights of the accused.

STRATEGY

Section 274 of the Criminal Code of Canada essentially states that in certain sexual offences cases, no corroboration is required for a conviction and the judge shall not instruct the jury that it is unsafe to find the accused guilty in the absence of corroboration. This section has been subject to controversy and criticism, particularly regarding its potential impact on the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof. One of the primary strategic considerations when dealing with this section of the Criminal Code is to recognize that it significantly shifts the burden of proof onto the accused. In cases where this section applies, the prosecution can secure a conviction without any corroboration of the complainant's testimony. As a result, it is critical for the accused or their legal counsel to develop a strong defense that can effectively challenge the complainant's testimony, provide alternative explanations for their behavior, or raise doubts about the prosecution's evidence. One potential strategy that could be employed is to challenge the constitutionality of section 274. This approach has been used in several high-profile cases and involves arguing that this section violates the principles of fundamental justice, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial. While this strategy can be challenging and there is no guarantee of success, it may be effective in certain circumstances, particularly if the case involves significant evidentiary issues or legal complexities. Another potential strategy is to hire a skilled and experienced legal counsel who can carefully analyze the prosecution's evidence, investigate the complainant's background and potential motives, and identify any weaknesses or inconsistencies in their testimony. This approach may involve cross-examining the complainant rigorously, calling expert witnesses to challenge the prosecution's case, and presenting evidence that can raise doubts about the complainant's credibility and reliability. In cases where section 274 applies, it may also be important to carefully manage the accused's public image and reputation. Allegations of sexual offences can be highly damaging to an individual's personal and professional reputation, regardless of whether they are ultimately convicted. As a result, it may be necessary to work with public relations experts, crisis management teams, and other professionals who can help protect the accused's public image and reputation. Finally, it is important to recognize that section 274 is just one of many factors that can impact the outcome of a sexual offences case. Other factors, such as the specific nature of the allegations, the quality and reliability of the evidence, and the skill and experience of the legal counsel involved, can also play a significant role. As a result, it is critical to work closely with an experienced legal professional who can develop a comprehensive and effective strategy that takes into account all relevant factors and considerations.