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PRIOR CONSISTENT STATEMENTS - REBUT INFERENCE OF RECENT FABRICATION

R. v. Stirling, 2008 SCC 10, [2008] 1 SCR 272

...


As a result of a single-vehicle accident that killed two people and seriously injured the accused and H, the accused was convicted of criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.  The main issue before the trial judge was whether the accused, and not H, was the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident.  A certain line of questioning during H’s cross-examination raised the possibility that he had motive to fabricate his testimony.  ...

                 Held:  The appeal should be dismissed.

                  As an exception to the general exclusionary rule, prior consistent statements can be admitted where, as here, it has been suggested that a witness has recently fabricated portions of his evidence.  Although these statements have probative value where they can illustrate that the witness’s story was the same even before a motivation to fabricate arose, any admitted prior consistent statements should not be assessed for the truth of their contents.  It is impermissible to assume that because a witness has made the same statement in the past, he is more likely to be telling the truth.  However, prior consistent statements may impact positively on the witness’s credibility where admission of such statements removes a motive of fabrication.  It is permissible for this factor to be taken into account as part of the larger assessment of credibility. [5] [7] [11]

...

Jim O'Neil, LL.B.

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