Most criminal offences in Canada involve prohibitions on doing things that would harm others. It is rare that the criminal law will require someone to do something.
An exception to this is the offence of failing to provide the necessities of life.
It is a criminal offence for a list of people, including parents, foster parents, and spouses to not provide the necessities of life.
It also requires anyone who is in charge of someone who cannot withdraw from that situation “by reason of detention, age, illness, mental disorder or other cause, to withdraw himself from that charge” to provide them with the necessities of life.
In the tragic case discussed the Court of Appeal allowed a sentence appeal by the Crown to increase a sentence imposed on a woman who worked as a caregiver for a 55-year-old woman who had Down Syndrome.
The woman with Down Syndrome stopped eating and slowly starved to death. The caregiver, relying on advice from the woman’s mother, didn’t arrange for medical assistance.
The case was unusual in that the caregiver had no animosity towards the woman she was caring for: they had a good relationship for more than 18 years and she mistakenly thought she was doing the right thing in not arranging for medical assistance.
While the Court of Appeal increased the sentence from a 12-month conditional sentence (house arrest) to a 15-month jail sentence, because the conditional sentence had already been served, the caregiver would not actually be required to go to jail.
Also on the show, a prosecution for criminal contempt for blocking a logging road by sitting on a tall tripod is discussed.
The issue in the case was whether the person sitting on the tripod had been properly served with a copy of the injunction not to block the road.
The police officer involved read a summary of the injunction to the person on the tripod and then left a copy of the injunction on the ground underneath the tripod, where it remained for an hour and a half until the police returned and arrested the man.
The court concluded that the man on the tripod had been properly notified of the injunction as it was drawn to his attention and he could have climbed down from his perch to read it but chose not to.
Finally, on the show, the war crimes prosecutions that took place in Nuremberg Germany following WWII are discussed.
The trial represented an alternative to summarily executing the prisoners as Stalin wanted to.
The trials involved four judges. One each from the USA, the UK, France and Russia.
The opening statement by the lead US Prosecution, Robert Jackson, began with this:
“The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.”
While most of the accused were convicted, and many of them were sentenced to death by hanging, three of the accused were found not guilty.