Kelly v. Canada (Attorney General)

In Fish Cases, Forfeiture, Offences on (Updated )

This case involved a vessel that was fishing during a closed in situation where the area had been closed by variation order shortly before the vessel started its fishing trip. At the trial of the licence holder, the licence holder did not appear and in his absence, after hearing evidence establishing the essential elements of the offence, a court imposed a conviction and ordered forfeiture of the proceeds of sale of the seized catch. At the subsequent trial of the captain, there was no conviction, as one charge was dismissed and one charge was withdrawn. Despite a demand for return of the proceeds of sale of the fish, the proceeds were retained by the Crown.

The vessel owner and captain later commenced a civil action for return of the proceeds of sale pursuant to s. 73.1(1) of the Fisheries Act. Relying upon Toronto [2002] S.C.R. 77 and other cases, the applicant argued that for the purposes of applying s. 73.1(1), the conviction of a licence holder (who was apparently not aboard the vessel) ought not to be allowed to trump the acquittal of the captain on the merits.

In response to this argument, the court appeared to concede that in some circumstances "evidence will be admissible to rebut the presumption that the person convicted committed the crime" (quoting form "Toronto"), but found that in the circumstances the applicants had not tendered sufficient evidence to do so. As a result, the application failed and the Crown was allowed to retain the proceeds of sale.