REGINA – The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for Claude Demong who was convicted in October of 2022 of sexual assault.
Justices Robert Richards, Lian Schwann and Brian Barrington-Foote all agreed that the North Battleford Provincial Court trial judge erred by failing to correctly apply the Villaroman test and that, as a result, Demong’s conviction must be set aside and a new trial held.
The Crown’s case against Demong depended on circumstantial evidence and the question to be decided by the trial judge was whether Demong’s guilt “was the only reasonable conclusion available on the totality of the evidence,” said the Justices in their Sept. 14 written decision.
“The key to (the trial judge's) decision was the complainant’s evidence that she would never have consented to having sex with Mr. Demong,” said Justice Richards. “Circumstantial evidence of that kind is common when the complainant has little or no memory of an alleged sexual assault.
“Even if the complainant would not have consented to having sex with Mr. Demong if she had been sober or, for that matter, had been less impaired, she may have consented because she was intoxicated. The trial judge not only failed to grapple with this possibility as required by Villaroman but came perilously close to expressly reversing the burden of proof on this point.”
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