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Credibility And Reliability

Video Transcript

Welcome to our website. My name is Mike Kruse. I’m here to talk to you about a couple of terms that you’re gonna hear in any criminal trial in Canada and they’re very important terms. “Credibility” and “reliability” and how do we assess these things in the context of the accused’s testimony. Credibility, it seems like a simple concept. It’s not necessarily a simple concept in a criminal trial but the definition is very simple. It’s the believability of the witness, a judge or jury – that is the trier of fact in your case – has to assess whether a particular witness is a believable witness but that’s not the end of it because some people who are believable who are in their own mind telling the truth and relating what they perceive is the truth, they’re not reliable. Reliability is a different concept. Reliability means accuracy. Are they an accurate witness and let me give you a quick example, someone may identify someone on the street and think that was the robber and they’re being truthful in court but it’s not the robber but mistaken identity happens all the time so this is a very important concept. So not only with the crown witnesses does a judge or a trier of fact have to assess credibility, that’s believability and whether they’re accurate but they also have to assess the accused’s testimony. Now, in Canada the burden of proof is on the crown to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt. That is, the scales of justice have to be pushed all the way down to the point where the jury or the judge is sure. Are you sure the accused committed the crime? Now, reasonable doubt, what does it mean? It certainly means this: it’s far closer to absolute certainty than it is to who’s more likely telling the truth. If you’re getting the point where the accused is probably guilty, well, that’s called reasonable doubt. It’s far closer to absolute certainty. Nothing can be proven with absolute certainty of course or mathematical certainty but we enjoy this great benefit in our democratic country. So how does the judge, the judge alone or the jury, how do they examine these particular issues. If the accused testifies, well, it’s a three- step process, it’s called WD: WD just like the initials. It’s a Supreme Court of Canada case and the three steps are as follows. When the accused testifies [before] members of the jury, if you believe the evidence of the accused, you must find him not guilty. That’s step one. Members of the jury, even if you do not believe the evidence of the accused but it leaves you with a reasonable doubt, you must find him not guilty [this is step two]. There’s a third step which is a very important step in a democratic country. Members of the jury, even if you completely reject the evidence of the accused, you don’t believe it, there’s nothing to as evidence in your mind, you must go on to consider all of the other evidence and determine whether the crown has proven the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Now, I can tell you this, many trials are won on that third branch. For example mistaken identity cases or when a complaint is not quite perfectly credible, they sound fairly convincing but the judge says: “I have a lingering doubt. Even though I disbelieve the accused, I’m just not at that point of certainty about being sure”. So there you have it, credibility, reliability and how you assess the accused’s evidence in the context of a Canadian criminal trial. It’s a great right, a democratic right in our society that we enjoy these freedoms.

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