Reasonable steps requirement weakens presumption of innocence

Jun 23, 2019 By Melody Izadi

A dissenting Supreme Court (SCC) judge was right to declare unconstitutional a section of the internet child-luring law that essentially obliges the accused to prove their innocence, says Toronto criminal lawyer Melody Izadi. In her dissenting reasons, Justice Rosalie Abella held that s. 172.1(4) of the Criminal Code breaches the Charter by allowing defendants to be convicted for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the person they are communicating with is of legal age

“I agree that the reasonable steps requirement infringes the presumption of innocence,” Izadi, an associate with Caramanna, Friedberg LLP tells AdvocateDaily.com. “It puts a burden on the accused to essentially prove they are not guilty, which is the antithesis to what our Constitution holds.” The defendant in the SCC case posted an ad online, saying: “Daddy looking for his little girl.” A police officer pretending to be a 14-year-old girl named “Mia” responded. The defendant and Mia had sexually charged internet conversations for more than two months.

The man claimed he believed Mia was really a woman posing as a girl. But a judge convicted him of child luring because he failed to take reasonable steps to confirm that was true.“What Abella says — and I agree with — is that, in effect, it puts the accused in a position where they can’t rely on their own innocent belief in that person’s age if reasonable steps aren’t taken,” Izadi says.

 

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