American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 52, Issue 2 (2016)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


It is clear that a Canadian judge can change a ruling or decision. For instance, it is well settled in Canada that a trial judge can reconsider a verdict of guilty in a criminal trial based upon the introduction of “fresh evidence”1 before sentence is imposed 2 and that an appellate court can subsequently decide an issue it had failed to address in its initial judgment 3 or amend “an order already passed and perfected.”4

In R. v. J.A., after convicting the accused of a sexual offence, the trial judge received a letter from the victim’s grandfather indicating that the victim had told him that there were more sexual incidents involved than he had described in his testimony.5 The trial judge refused to reopen the trial and vacate his verdict or to declare a mistrial. On appeal, the Ontario Court of Appeal noted that “a trial judge who has made a finding of guilt on disputed facts has the authority to vacate the adjudication of guilt at any time before the imposition of sentence or other final disposition, but such authority should be exercised only in exceptional circumstances and in the clearest of cases.”6 The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial judge’s “reasons on the mistrial motion confirm that he appreciated and correctly applied the principles governing mistrial applications and the Palmer criteria for the admission of fresh evidence in the context of the whole of the evidence led at trial.” It concluded, “His discretionary decision to dismiss the mistrial motion is neither clearly wrong nor based on an erroneous principle. I therefore would reject this ground of appeal.”7