New & Notable: Finding their way to the truth, regardless of the route...

Inderjit Singh Reyat lied in court. It’s not the first time someone has lied in court. Often people are charged or prosecuted for lying in court. Reyat, however, chose to lie in a very significant trial, the “Air India Trial”: R v Malik and Bagri, 2005 BCSC 350.


Reyat was charged with perjury. The charge particularized 19 alleged instances of false statements during his testimony at the trial. Reyat sought an instruction to the jury that they had to be unanimous as to at least one of the particulars. The trial judge refused to instruct the jury in that manner. Reyat was convicted. He appealed. That appeal was dismissed: 2012 BCCA 311.


On appeal Reyat argued that the jury should have been instructed as he requested at trial. He argued that R v Thatcher, 1987 CanLII 53 (SCC) was distinguishable. Thatcher, he suggested, should be confined to its facts – where the issue related to findings of fact by the jury – not to a case such as his which related to considering particulars on an indictment.


The Court of Appeal rejected this argument.


The court held that the principles enunciated in Thatcher should not be so confined and offered the following as part of its analysis:


Perhaps an even more persuasive application of Thatcher, for the purpose of the present case, was made by Ryan J.A. for the majority of this Court in G.L.M., at p. 396:


In my view the Thatcher reasoning logically applies to continuing offences such as the offence in the case at bar.  The principle that the jury need only be unanimous as to the verdict reached applies equally to cases where the indictment charges an offence that encompasses a number of discrete or separate incidents over a period of time.  If jurors are not required to be unanimous in their findings of fact or the evidentiary routes they follow in reaching a collective verdict, it follows that where the evidence comprises a number of incidents and proof of any one incident would be a sufficient finding of guilt, there is no legal requirement that individual jurors rely on the same incident in reaching a verdict of guilty.  The unanimity requirement applies only to the essential ingredients of the offence, not the facts which establish them.  While the judgment in Thatcher dealt with the commission of one act, the unlawful killing of the accused's wife, the decision is grounded in principles that are not confined in their application to situations involving s. 21 or alternative theories of legal culpability.   The decision in Thatcher is a particular application of the principle that while jury unanimity is required on the verdict, the jurors may follow divergent paths involving different views of the facts that make up the offence in arriving at that verdict.  [Emphasis in original added.]


These decisions undermine the appellant’s argument that Thatcher should be interpreted restrictively.  Moreover, G.L.M. applies the decision in Thatcher to a set of facts analogous to those in the case at bar [paras 29-30].


Reyat was sentenced to five years in jail.