R v Zora



''R v Zora'', 2020 SCC 14 is a case in which the
Supreme Court of Canada The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC; french: Cour suprême du Canada, CSC) is the highest court in the judicial system of Canada. It comprises nine justices, whose decisions are the ultimate application of Canadian law, and grants permission to b ...
held unanimously that the offence of breaching
bail Bail is a set of pre-trial restrictions that are imposed on a suspect to ensure that they will not hamper the judicial process. Bail is the conditional release of a defendant with the promise to appear in court when required. In some countries ...
conditions under the ''Criminal Code'' requires subjective ''
mens rea In criminal law, (; Law Latin for "guilty mind") is the mental element of a person's intention to commit a crime; or knowledge that one's action (or lack of action) would cause a crime to be committed. It is considered a necessary element o ...

Background, facts, and procedural history

The ''Criminal Code'' defines a number of offences known as administration of justice offences. Such offences concern an accused's behaviour while he or she is involved in the
criminal justice system Criminal justice is the delivery of justice to those who have been accused of committing crimes. The criminal justice system is a series of government agencies and institutions. Goals include the rehabilitation of offenders, preventing other ...
, as opposed to conduct that results in criminal charges in the first instance. ''Zora'' concerns the administration of justice offence of breaching bail conditions: failing to comply with rules the court has set to govern an accused's conduct while the accused is out on bail pending trial. Chaycen Zora had been charged with drug possession under the '' Controlled Drugs and Substances Act'' and was released on bail with several conditions. One of these conditions was that he would answer the door when the police came to check on him. Due to his failure to comply with this condition, Zora was charged with an offence under section 145(3) of the ''Criminal Code''. Zora was convicted at trial and his appeal to the
British Columbia Court of Appeal The British Columbia Court of Appeal (BCCA) is the highest appellate court in the province of British Columbia, Canada. It was established in 1910 following the 1907 Court of Appeal Act. The BCCA hears appeals from the Supreme Court of Britis ...
was dismissed. The Court of Appeal held that the statute required an objective, not a subjective, standard of ''mens rea'', and that Zora failed to meet the standard. That is, the statute required
the Crown The Crown is the state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their subdivisions (such as the Crown Dependencies, overseas territories, provinces, or states). Legally ill-defined, the term has differe ...
to prove that Zora's failure to comply with his bail condition represented a "marked departure from what a reasonable person in the same situation would do," not that Zora either intended to breach his bail condition, knew that he was breaching it, or was reckless as to whether he breached it or not. Before the Supreme Court's decision in ''Zora'', Canadian law was not consistent as to whether breach of bail conditions required subjective or objective ''mens rea''. Courts in some provinces adopted one standard, while those in other provinces came to the opposite conclusion. Because criminal law in Canada is defined by federal statute but interpreted and enforced by provincial courts and administrators, breach of bail conditions had become a different offence in different provinces.

Reasons of the Court

Justice Sheilah Martin, writing for a unanimous court, held that the Court of Appeal erred in finding that the statute only required proof of objective ''mens rea''. Rather, s 145(3) requires a subjective standard. She held, following the Court's jurisprudence in '' R v Sault Ste-Marie (City of)'' and subsequent cases including ''R v ADH'', 2013 SCC 28, that s 145(3) should be presumed to involve a subjective standard of fault and that the presumption was not displaced. Justice Martin acknowledged that the ''Criminal Code'' had been amended after Zora's trial, creating two new offences—at sections 145(4) and 145(5), respectively—to cover the offence for which Zora had originally been convicted, but noted that the substance of the offence of failing to comply with bail conditions had not been significantly changed. Thus, although ''Zora'' nominally concerns the interpretation of a now-defunct
statute A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs the legal entities of a city, state, or country by way of consent. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. Statutes are rules made by le ...
, its holding likely applies to 145(4) and 145(5). The Court also emphasized that bail conditions must be "clearly articulated, minimal in number, necessary, reasonable, least onerous in the circumstances, and sufficiently linked to the accused’s risks regarding the statutory grounds for detention in s. 515(10)". They must respect the ''
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms The ''Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms'' (french: Charte canadienne des droits et libertés), often simply referred to as the ''Charter'' in Canada, is a bill of rights entrenched in the Constitution of Canada, forming the first part o ...
'' and federal and provincial legislation; they must be reasonably capable of being obeyed by the accused; and they must be "tailored to the individual risks posed by the accused," not "a list of conditions inserted by rote."; This was meant to address common practices of imposing numerous bail conditions essentially automatically, often setting up accused to fail (e.g. in the case of addiction or other psychosocial problems), and resulting in multiple convictions for bail related to charges that might well themselves not lead to any conviction. The Court identified several problems that frequently arise with routinely imposed bail conditions: * Some conditions could be breached by behaviour that is actually a symptom of a mental illness, such as addiction, or could if obeyed put the accused at risk (e.g. of dangerous
withdrawal Withdrawal means "an act of taking out" and may refer to: * Anchoresis (withdrawal from the world for religious or ethical reasons) * ''Coitus interruptus'' (the withdrawal method) * Drug withdrawal * Social withdrawal * Taking of money from a ban ...
symptoms). * Some conditions related to social factors such as "attend school" or "attend counselling" may not be legitimate unless they address a specific risk presented by the accused. * The commonplace condition "keep the peace and be of good behaviour" could transform the breach of any federal, provincial, or municipal statute, no matter how minor, into a criminal offence. This will usually be too onerous and disconnected from the actual risks posed by the accused. * Conditions requiring the accused to follow the rules of their household, a shelter, etc., are too vague and do not give adequate notice of what conduct will be criminal, e.g. because the rules of the household could change at the whim of the person making them. * Some conditions could have perverse unintended consequences on the safety of the accused or the public; e.g. they could prevent a vulnerable accused from calling for emergency services at a time when they are in breach of a condition. * Bail conditions can curtail an accused's ''Charter'' rights, such as the right to freedom of expression or association or freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, at a time when the accused is still presumed innocent. In the result, Justice Martin ordered a new trial.


Criminal defence lawyers spoke in favour of the decision, noting that it addressed broader issues in the Canadian bail system beyond the standard of fault in administration of justice offences.


* ''R v Zora''
2020 SCC 14
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2019 BCCA 9
[''Zora'' British Columbia Court of Appeal">CA]

External links

* * ''Criminal Code'' section
{{DEFAULTSORT:Zora Supreme Court of Canada cases 2020 in Canadian case law Canadian criminal case law