Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Supreme Court Says Circumstantial Evidence Can Be Enough for Child Porn Cases

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Supreme Court Says Circumstantial Evidence Can Be Enough for Child Porn Cases

Article excerpt

High court sides with Crown in porn case


OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada says circumstantial evidence can be enough to convict someone of possessing child pornography.

In a decision Friday, the high court ruled unanimously that the Crown does not have to disprove any other possible explanation for how child pornography ends up on a computer owned by an accused.

"'Other plausible theories' or 'other reasonable possibilities' must be based on logic and experience applied to the evidence or the absence of evidence, not on speculation," Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell wrote in the 32-page decision.

"Of course, the line between a 'plausible theory' and 'speculation' is not always easy to draw. But the basic question is whether the circumstantial evidence, viewed logically and in light of human experience, is reasonably capable of supporting an inference other than that the accused is guilty."

The decision concerned the case of Oswald Villaroman, who took his laptop to a Calgary computer shop for repairs in December 2009, and a service technician contacted the police after discovering child pornography downloaded through a file-sharing program.

A judge convicted Villaroman of child pornography possession following a prosecution based on circumstantial evidence such as the fact that he owned the computer, which had only one user account labelled with his name.

The Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the conviction last year, ruling the trial judge had erred excluding other possibilities as to how the pornography ended up on his computer.

The Supreme Court disagreed with the appeal judgment Friday, setting aside the acquittal.

The high court also handed a separate Charter of Rights issue related to the search and seizure of the laptop back to the Alberta Court of Appeal, which means Villaroman will have another chance to argue his case in the appeal court.

In asking the Supreme Court to consider the case, the Crown argued requiring prosecutors to disprove all other possible conclusions concerning the presence of pornography would increase the burden of proof to an impossible degree.

The Crown said this could have a devastating impact on the ability to prosecute child pornography cases and others that rely on circumstantial evidence. …

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