…absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, First Edition, Random House, New York, 1995, at p. 213

The absence of an apparent motive to fabricate an allegation against an accused is a neutral factor when assessing the credibility of a complainant. As Trotter, J. states, speaking for a unanimous Court of Appeal R. v. Bartholomew, [2019] O.J. No. 2371, beginning at para 22:

…it is dangerous and impermissible to move from an apparent lack of motive to the conclusion that the complainant must be telling the truth. People may accuse others of committing a crime for reasons that may never be known…

… there is a "significant difference" between absence of proved motive and proved absence of motive… (citations omitted)

As Trotter, J. confirms at para. 25:

 …an absence of evidence of a proved motive…..was not capable of enhancing the complainant's credibility, as the trial judge did. At best, it was a neutral factor.

Other considerations:

There is no onus on the defence to establish a motive for the complainant to fabricate an allegation, but where such evidence exists, it may detract from the complainant’s credibility. As Trotter, J., states in Bartholomew, supra, at para. 21:

An ulterior motive, or a motive to fabricate, on the part of a complainant may be … important. From the defence perspective, proof of such a motive provides a compelling alternative to the truth of the allegations. 


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