CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Tanovich on Absence of Motive to Lie in Sexual Assault Cases

David M Tanovich (University of Windsor - Faculty of Law) has posted A Principled Approach to Assessing the Absence of Motive to Lie in Sexual Assault Cases ((2022) 79 Criminal Reports 230-243) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
When can a trier of fact take into account the absence of a complainant's motive to lie in assessing credibility in sexual assault cases. How much weight can be attributed to that absence? Resolution of these questions has led to a surprisingly sizable number of appellate cases. R v Gerrard 2022 SCC 13 is now the leading case on the issue. It confirms somewhat cryptically that the absence of evidence of a motive to fabricate can be considered in assessing credibility. Clarity on the issue is still needed. In particular, what consitutes "proved absence" and/or evidence of an absence of motive. This piece argues that courts need to start afresh. If we better understand what courts are trying to get at by referencing the issue of motive as being "proved"and, we apply the everyday rules of evidence, was can escape from this confusing trap of trying to fit the issue into a particular box. When the cases talk abut proved absence (or presence) of motive, the phrase should be interpreted to mean that there is a sufficient and compelling evidentiary basis or foundation to allow for the conclusion or inference to be drawn. After setting out how the ordinary rules of evidence and policy support this principled approach to the issue, the article offers some model instructions on the issue.

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