The law courts in Whitehorse. The Yukon Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for a man convicted of sexual assault and breaking and entering in 2018.(Joel Krahn/Yukon News file photo)

Yukon Court of Appeal orders new trial for man convicted in 2016 sexual assault

The Court of Appeal found the trial judge erroneously concluded the man had made up his alibi

The Yukon Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for a man convicted in 2018 of breaking and entering and sexual assault after the trial judge rejected evidence suggesting he was at home, asleep, at the time of the crimes.

In a unanimous decision released Aug. 6, Justice Elizabeth Bennet, supported by Justices Susan Cooper and John Hunter, wrote that the trial judge had concluded without evidence that the man and his ex-girlfriend had “concocted” an alibi.

The man’s name, as well as the victim’s and any witnesses’, are covered by a publication ban.

The accused is identified only as “M.J.H.”

M.J.H. allegedly broke into the victim’s home in December 2016 after having had drinks there with her and another friend earlier that day.

The victim alleged that she had gone to sleep but woke up to find M.J.H. having sexual intercourse with her. She chased him out of her house with a stove poker, she said, before calling her sister and going to a nursing station.

She eventually reported the incident to police in March 2017.

The friend testified that M.J.H. told him the next day that the victim had chased him with a poker.

The man, however, denied having told the friend that. He testified that he had not returned to the victim’s house after leaving, but instead had walked home and passed out in bed.

M.J.H.’s then-girlfriend also testified, saying she came home from work to find him asleep in bed. She said she cooked hamburger soup and woke him up to eat. He went back to bed afterwards, she said, and neither left the house again that night.

A territorial court judge rejected the girlfriend’s testimony, partly because she waited eight months after hearing about the alleged assault to talk to police and because of her “unusual” recollection of details from that day and “angry and argumentative” demeanour.

The judge concluded that M.J.H. and his girlfriend, with plenty of time to discuss details, had fabricated his alibi, and based on that finding, convicted him of sexual assault and breaking and entering.

The judge added that even if he were wrong about the fabrication, he would still have rejected M.J.H.’s testimony and convicted him.

Bennett, however, wrote that there “was not a scintilla of independent evidence, as it is defined in the law,” to support the conclusion that M.J.H. had invented an alibi.

“The sole fact that Mr. H. and (his ex-girlfriend) discussed the allegations is not evidence supporting a fabrication. If it was, every alibi put forward by a family member or friend would be seen to be concocted … (There) is no independent evidence supporting concoction that was intended to deceive the trier of fact, and the trial judge erred in so finding. He therefore erred in drawing an inference of guilt against Mr. H.,” she wrote.

“The trial judge went on to say that if he was wrong, he would still disbelieve Mr. H.’s evidence and would find him guilty,” she continued. “In my view, that additional finding cannot correct the grave error of law he made in incorrectly drawing an adverse inference against Mr. H. This is particularly so given that he gave no reasons for rejecting Mr. H.’s evidence other than that it was inconsistent with the Crown witnesses’ evidence.”

Bennett set aside M.J.H.’s convictions and ordered a new trial on both counts.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Members of the RCMP’s traffic services team examine police markers on Range Road after a six-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle near the Takhini Arena in Whitehorse on Oct. 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Six-year-old hit by vehicle near Takhini Arena

Police were called to the scene around 12:15 p.m. on Oct. 25

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. Two new cases of COVID-19 were identified in Watson Lake over the weekend. The cases are connected to three others in the community previously announced by officials on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two additional COVID-19 cases in Watson Lake bring total up to five

Individuals with symptoms and connections to the three other cases were tested over the weekend

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

Teagan Wiebe, left, and Amie Wiebe pose for a photo with props during The Guild’s haunted house dress rehearsal on Oct. 23. The Heart of Riverdale Community Centre will be hosting its second annual Halloween haunted house on Oct. 30 and 31, with this year’s theme being a plague. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Plague-themed haunted house to take over Heart of Riverdale for Halloween

A plague will be descending upon the Heart of Riverdale Community Centre… Continue reading

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

asdf
COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading