Conviction Review

Who May Apply?

You may apply if you have been convicted of an offence under a federal law or regulation. For example, if you were convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code or the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, you are eligible to apply for a conviction review.

You may also apply for a review if a court has found you to be a dangerous offender or a long-term offender under the Criminal Code.

The Minister of Justice may review convictions both for indictable offences (e.g. murder, manslaughter) and for summary conviction offences (e.g. minor theft).

When May You Apply?

You may apply for a conviction review when you have exhausted your rights of judicial review or appeal for your conviction or the court's finding that you are a dangerous or long-term offender. You may not apply for a conviction review if a judicial review or an appeal of your conviction is still before the courts.

Judicial review and appeals to higher courts are the usual ways to correct legal errors and miscarriages of justice. Therefore, convicted persons are expected to appeal their convictions where suitable grounds exist. A conviction review by the Minister of Justice is not a substitute for or alternative to a judicial review or an appeal of your conviction.

If you have not appealed your conviction, you may still be eligible to apply for a conviction review if the time for appealing has expired and you have since become aware of new and significant information that casts doubt on the correctness of your conviction. However, you should apply to the court of appeal for an order extending the time for appealing based on new information,where it is feasible to do so.

What is New and Significant Information?

Your application for a conviction review must be based on new and significant information. Information will be considered new if the courts did not examine it during your trial or appeal or if you became aware of it after all court proceedings were over.

Information is significant if

  • it is reasonably capable of belief;
  • it is relevant to the issue of guilt; and
  • it could have affected the verdict if it had been presented at trial.

The following are examples of information that might support a conviction review application if it were both new and significant:

  • Information that establishes or confirms an alibi.
  • The confession of another person to the crime.
  • Information that identifies another person at the scene of the crime.
  • Scientific evidence that points to another person's guilt or supports a claim of innocence.
  • Proof that important evidence was not disclosed.
  • Information that shows a witness gave false testimony.
  • Information that substantially contradicts testimony given at trial.

A conviction review application is not meant to be another level of appeal or a mechanism that allows the Minister of Justice to substitute his or her decision for that of a court. Simply repeating the same evidence or legal arguments that were made in the trial and appeal courts does not amount to providing new and significant information.

What Can the Minister Do?

On a conviction review application, the Minister of Justice does not decide whether you are guilty or innocent. That is a question only a court can decide.

If the information in your conviction review application satisfies the Minister that there has likely been a miscarriage of justice, the Minister can correct this injustice by granting any of the following remedies:

  • ordering a new trial;
  • ordering a new hearing for a person who was found to be a dangerous offender or a long-term offender; or
  • referring a case to the court of appeal of a province or territory to be dealt with as if it were an appeal.

If the Minister is not satisfied that there has likely been a miscarriage of justice, your conviction review application will be dismissed.

In some cases, the Minister may wish to have the assistance of a provincial or territorial court of appeal in regard to a question arising from a conviction review application. The Minister has the power, in those cases, to refer one or more specific questions to the court of appeal for its opinion.

Who Assesses the Application?

In most cases, lawyers with the Criminal Conviction Review Group (CCRG) will assess the conviction review application by conducting the preliminary assessment and the investigation, and by providing advice to the Minister on whether or not a remedy is warranted in a particular case. Most wrongful conviction applications are based on criminal matters where the prosecution was conducted by one of the provincial Attorneys General. However, if a wrongful conviction application is received as a result of a matter that was prosecuted by the Attorney General of Canada (e.g. drug cases or criminal matters prosecuted in the territories), all the various stages within the conviction review process will be conducted by lawyers from outside the CCRG.

When Does the Assessment Begin?

An assessment of a conviction review application discussed below may begin only when a fully completed application form and all required supporting documents have been received by the CCRG.

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