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Good Character Evidence

Evidence of an accused’s good character is relevant not only to support the accused’s credibility as a witness, but also to support an inference that the accused is unlikely to have committed the offence charged: R v Luckese, 2016 ONCA 359 at para 16

Bad Character Evidence

Evidence is discreditable when it tends to show conduct of the accused, which would be viewed with disapproval by a reasonable person, beyond what is alleged in the indictment: R v Bos, 2016 ONCA 443 at para 72

Such evidence is presumptively inadmissible because its potential for prejudice, distraction and time consumption is very great and these disadvantages will almost always outweigh its probative value: Bos at para 73

Discreditable conduct evidence that is adduced to advance a speculative theory of motive ought to be excluded. However, evidence that provides the trier of fact with real insight into the background and relationship between the accused and the victim, and which genuinely helps to establish a bona fide theory of motive is highly probative, and thus more likely to outweigh its inherent prejudicial effect: Bos at para 74

A prosecutor’s desire to create fodder for cross-examination is not a legitimate path to admission. Admission of highly prejudicial evidence on this basis may actually have the effect of discouraging an accused person from testifying. Conversely, it may induce an accused person to testify just to explain irrelevant evidence that portrays him or her in an unfavourable light. Either way, it has real potential for unfairness: R v Pilgrim, 2017 ONCA 309 at para 59


When prior discreditible conduct is admissible (for narrative or other probative value) it is essential that the trial judge clearly articulate the limited use the trier of fact is permitted to make of this evidence; the trier of fact must restrict his assessment of that evidence to its limited use: Pilgrim at para 60

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