The Canadian criminal justice system recognizes the inherent value and worth of the individual. Every individual must be treated humanely at each stage of the process.

Defence counsel must be on guard against language that undermines a client's dignity.

At trial, counsel must object immediately when a Crown Attorney crosses the line from zealous advocacy to improper denigration of an accused during cross-examination. Cross-examination is not a license to treat an accused like a piece of trash. By way of example, Rosenberg, J.A., speaking for a unanimous Court of Appeal in R. v. Robinson, [2001] O.J. No. 1072 at para. 35, stated:

…Crown counsel’s cross-examination of the appellant was highly improper. From start to finish, it was designed to demean and denigrate the appellant. …Many of the questions posed were laced with sarcasm and framed in a manner that made it apparent that Crown counsel personally held the appellant in utter contempt…

Defence counsel also plays a role in ensuring that a sentencing hearing does not degenerate into an exercise in dehumanizing an offender. While there is a need to publicly denounce an offender’s criminal misconduct, there is no place for inflammatory language that casts an offender as subhuman or beyond redemption.

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