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Facts[]

M was four years old when he died in his foster home from multiple blunt traumas to his head. M's body was extensively bruised. M's foster mother confessed to beating M and pleaded guilty to manslaughter. J.F., M's foster father, was charged with manslaughter by criminal negligence and manslaughter by failing to provide the necessaries of life. He was convicted by a jury on the first count, but acquitted on the second. He appealed the conviction. The Court of Appeal overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial on the charge of manslaughter by criminal negligence on the basis that the verdicts were inconsistent. The Crown appealed on the issue of inconsistent verdicts. The accused cross-appealed the order for a new trial, contending that an acquittal ought to have been entered.

Issue[]

  1. Are a conviction for manslaughter by criminal negligence and an acquittal for manslaughter by failing to provide for the needs of a child inconsistent?

Decision[]

Appeal dismissed and cross-appeal allowed; acquittal entered.

Reasons[]

Fish, writing for the majority, held that the verdicts rendered at trial are inconsistent and the conviction of manslaughter by criminal negligence must be quashed; there was no reasonable basis upon which to convict and acquit J.F. at the same trial of the same offence committed in the same way against the same victim. Though the two counts alleged different "underlying" offences, the J.F.'s guilt depended on exactly the same failure to perform exactly the same duty: the duty to protect his foster child from foreseeable harm from his spouse. The count of failure to provide the necessaries of life required proof of a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent parent in circumstances where it was objectively foreseeable that the omission would lead to a risk of danger to M's life, or a risk of permanent endangerment to his health. Criminal negligence required proof that the same omission represented a marked and substantial departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent parent in circumstances where the accused either recognized and ran an obvious and serious risk to M's life or gave no thought to that risk. The verdicts signify that a lesser degree of fault was not established whereas a greater degree of fault was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Ratio[]

Generally, crimes which have an external element of negligence require a standard of a marked departure from the standard of care; manslaughter by criminal negligence requires a standard of marked and substantial departure from the standard of care.

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