R. v. Bou-Daher, 2014 NSCA 82 Date

Citation: R. v. Bou-Daher, 2014 NSCA 82
Date: 20140909
Docket: CAC 422634
Registry: Halifax
Jean (John) Bou-Daher
Her Majesty the Queen
Farrar, J.A.
Motion Heard:
August 28, 2014, in Halifax, Nova Scotia in Chambers
Motion granted.
Appellant in person
Mark Scott, for the respondent
Edward A. Gores, Q.C., for the respondent Attorney General
of Nova Scotia
Page 2
[1] The appellant applies for appointment of counsel under s. 684 of the
Criminal Code of Canada, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46, to assist him in the prosecution
of his appeal from an arson conviction. For the reasons that follow I allow the
[2] On November 21, 2013, Mr. Bou-Daher was convicted of simple arson, an
offence under s. 434 of the Criminal Code. He was acquitted of arson for a
fraudulent purpose under s. 435(1) of the Criminal Code.
[3] The factual foundation for the conviction is found in the decision of
Provincial Court Judge Anne S. Derrick dated November 21, 2013 (2013 NSPC
114). In summary, shortly after 1 a.m. on Monday, July 7, 2008, two fires were
deliberately set on the second level of Key Largos, a bar at 70 First Lake Drive in
Lower Sackville.
[4] It was established at trial that a liquid accelerant was used to ignite the fires.
The area smelled strongly of gasoline or some similar petroleum product. Carpet
and wood samples were removed and forensic testing indicated gasoline and a light
petroleum distillate in the carpet sample. Gasoline was also detected in the other
[5] The evidence also indicated that the fires started in two different locations
and were quickly extinguished by the sprinkler system.
[6] Mr. Bou-Daher was the manager of Key Largos. It was owned by his son
and his nephew through a numbered company. He worked for the numbered
[7] As Sunday, July 6 turned into Monday. July 7, the evidence indicates there
were only three people at Key Largos, Mr. Bou-Daher, Asal Vakili and Taleb
Badour. Ms. Vakili waitressed at the bar on Sunday, July 6. The bar was typically
open until 1 a.m. seven days a week. However, on that night the customers were
Page 3
all gone by midnight so she closed the bar early, handed in her money and receipts
to Mr. Bou-Daher who was in his office on the second level of the bar. As she was
leaving, Mr. Badour was waiting at the locked front door to get in. He wanted to
see Mr. Bou-Daher who owed him money for doing some work at the bar.
[8] Mr. Badour went upstairs where he found Mr. Bou-Daher in his office
counting money. Mr. Bou-Daher paid Mr. Badour what was owed to him. He was
about to leave when Mr. Bou-Daher told him he was done and they should leave
[9] Mr. Badour went downstairs and waited for Mr. Bou-Daher. The security
surveillance indicates they left the bar together.
[10] Mr. Bou-Daher armed the security system at approximately 1:11 a.m.
[11] The fires triggered the alarm system and the Halifax Regional Fire Service
was notified of the fire alarm at approximately 1:15 a.m. Two fire trucks arrived at
Key Largos at approximately 1:22 a.m. and 1:26 a.m. respectively.
[12] The evidence established that the fires were set in the vicinity of sprinkler
heads and because of that, they were extinguished very quickly.
[13] This is a brief summary of the evidence. It is reviewed in much more detail
in the decision of the trial judge.
[14] Mr. Bou-Daher sought and was denied legal aid in pursuit of the appeal. His
Notice of Appeal is sparse with respect to the basis of appeal. He simply says that
the judge made the wrong decision as there was not enough evidence in support of
his guilt which I take to mean that the verdict was unreasonable or not supported
by the evidence.
[15] The materials filed in support of the s. 684 application give some detail to
the grounds of appeal suggesting ineffective assistance of counsel:
in failing to make a Charter application to have the charges
dismissed based on the delay in bringing the matter to trial;
instructing him not to testify on his own behalf; and
other allegations regarding the overall conduct of the trial.
Page 4
[16] He also raises other issues which, from his written submissions, I take him to
be arguing that the trial judge failed to give significance to or failed to take into
account certain evidence in reaching her decision including:
There was absolutely no motive and nothing to be gained by Mr. BouDaher, his son or nephew by the setting of the fire;
To the contrary, the result was a tragic financial loss and damages;
That the timelines regarding when he left the premises, the times on
the video surveillance and the time of the alarm were confused; and
No gas can or other container which could have been used to bring the
accelerant into the premises was ever found. Mr. Bou-Daher says it is
clear on the evidence that he did not have anything with him when he
left the bar. Although not expressing it in these words, I take him to
be arguing that this should have raised a reasonable doubt in the trial
judge’s mind.
[17] In his appearance before me, Mr. Bou-Daher’s submissions were very short
arguing simply the evidence was not sufficient to convict him of this crime.
[18] I should also point out that it is apparent from his oral submissions that
English is not Mr. Bou-Daher’s first language and although he can adequately
communicate in English he has difficulty expressing the issues he wishes to raise
on appeal.
[19] The issue is whether the appellant has met the pre-requisites of s. 684 of the
Criminal Code.
[20] Section 684 of the Criminal Code provides:
Legal assistance for appellant
684. (1) A court of appeal or a judge of that court may, at any time, assign counsel
to act on behalf of an accused who is a party to an appeal or to proceedings
preliminary or incidental to an appeal where, in the opinion of the court or judge,
it appears desirable in the interests of justice that the accused should have legal
assistance and where it appears that the accused has not sufficient means to obtain
that assistance.
Page 5
[21] In R. v. J.W., 2011 NSCA 76, Fichaud, J.A. (in Chambers) summarized the
test for appointment of counsel under s. 684(1) as follows:
[11] Under s. 684(1), literally I have two inquiries - - (1) whether it is desirable
in the interests of justice that J.W. have legal assistance, and (2) whether J.W. has
sufficient means to obtain that assistance. R. v. Assoun, 2002 NSCA 50, paras. 4144. In R. v. Innocente, [1999] N.S.J. No. 302, paras. 10-12, Justice Freeman
agreed with the statement of Justice Doherty in R. v. Bernardo (1997), 121 C.C.C.
(3d) 123 (Ont. C.A.), para 22, that, in addition, the chambers judge should be
satisfied that the appellant has an arguable appeal.
[22] I am satisfied from the information Mr. Bou-Daher has provided to the court
that he lacks the means to otherwise retain counsel. Therefore, I am only left to
complete the “interests of justice analysis”. Cromwell, J.A. (as he then was) noted
in R. v. Assoun, 2002 NSCA 50, this inquiry involves a number of considerations
the merits of the appeal;
its complexity;
the appellant’s capability; and
the Court’s role to assist.
[23] Chief Justice MacDonald in R. v. Morton, 2010 NSCA 103 added an
additional consideration, that is, the responsibility of Crown counsel to ensure that
the applicant is treated fairly (¶5).
[24] Is it in the interest of the administration of justice that the appellant have
legal assistance for the purpose of preparing and presenting his appeal?
The Merits of the Appeal
[25] It is difficult, in cases such as this, where I am of the view that the appellant
does not have the ability to properly articulate what would be the appropriate
grounds of appeal to assess the merits of the appeal. However, I have had an
opportunity to review Mr. Bou-Daher’s submissions, as well as the Appeal Book in
this matter and I am satisfied that there is, at least, an arguable issue.
[26] Having found the threshold has been met, I will not comment on it further.
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Complexity of the Appeal and the Appellant’s Capability
[27] In my view, this is a relatively complex appeal. The case against Mr. BouDaher was wholly circumstantial. The trial judge had to be satisfied that the
Crown had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Bou-Daher had exclusive
opportunity to set the fires that damaged Key Largos.
[28] The evidence relied upon by the trial judge, although for the most part
undisputed, was extensive, involving timelines from the security system, the alarm
monitoring company, the fire department and video surveillance cameras which
did not necessarily coordinate with one another.
[29] It also involves a consideration of the law relating to exclusive opportunity.
[30] I am not remotely satisfied that Mr. Bou-Daher has the ability to present his
argument effectively or to even identify what arguments he needs to make in order
to prosecute his appeal.
The Court’s Role
[31] In Grenkow, supra, Justice Hallett describes this Court’s role in an appeal
involving a self-represented individual:
[26] ... the reality is that on an appeal from conviction or sentence where the
appellant appears in person, the appeal panel hearing the appeal will carefully
address the issues raised by the appellant. The panel will have the trial record and
the panel members will have reviewed the record of the proceedings. If the points
raised on the appeal have merit the appeal will be allowed notwithstanding the
possible imperfect presentation of argument by the appellant. ...
[32] Although I recognize that the Court has a role where an individual is selfrepresented, in his case, in my view, considering Mr. Bou-Daher’s lack of ability to
present what I consider to be a relatively complex appeal, the Court’s role would
become much broader and would involve, not only addressing the issues raised by
the appellant but also identifying the issues that ought to have been raised by the
appellant on the appeal.
[33] In my view, that goes further than what Justice Hallett envisioned in
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The Crown’s Role
[34] Although it is the Crown’s duty to ensure the appellant is treated fairly (R. v.
Morton, 2010 NSCA 103), it is my view Mr. Bou-Daher requires much more
assistance than the Crown could reasonably be expected to give in these
[35] There is an arguable issue for appeal in this matter. Mr. Bou-Daher requires
counsel in order to properly frame the grounds of appeal and to properly present
his case. As a result, I find that it is in the interests of justice that he have legal
assistance. I am also satisfied that he has insufficient means to obtain that
[36] As a result, I order that legal assistance be assigned to Mr. Bou-Daher
pursuant to s. 684 of the Criminal Code.
Farrar, J.A.