What are the consequences of a trial judge’s failure to spell out every consideration leading to a finding of credibility?

Saskatchewan, Canada


The following excerpt is from R. v. Coates, 2009 SKCA 128 (CanLII):

… The trial judge should not be found to have erred in law for failing to describe every consideration leading to a finding of credibility, or to the conclusion of guilt or innocence. Nor should error of law be found because the trial judge has failed to reconcile every frailty in the evidence or allude to every relevant principle of law. Reasonable inferences need not be spelled out. For example if, in a case that turns on credibility, a trial judge explains that he or she has rejected the accused’s evidence, but fails to state that he or she has a reasonable doubt, this does not constitute an error of law; in such a case the conviction itself raises an inference that the accused’s evidence failed to raise a reasonable doubt. Finally, appellate courts must guard against simply sifting through the record and substituting their own analysis of the evidence for that of the trial judge because the reasons did not comply with their idea of ideal reasons. As established in Harper v. The Queen, 1982 CanLII 11 (SCC), [1982] 1 S.C.R. 2, at p. 14, “[a]n appellate tribunal has neither the duty nor the right to reassess evidence at trial for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence….Where the record, including the reasons for the judgment, discloses a lack of appreciation of relevant evidence and more particularly the complete disregard of such evidence, then it falls upon the reviewing tribunal to intercede.” (emphasis added)

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