2017 Harvest

2017 Harvest

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Saskatchewan man loses appeal from conviction for stealing cattle

Farmer D was convicted of stealing cattle contrary to Section 338(2) of the Criminal Code and of fraudulently making a false or counterfeit mark on cattle contrary to Section 338(1)(b)(ii) of the Code.  D acknowledged at trial that he had sold the cattle in question, but said that he had believed they were part of his own herd.  His evidence was not accepted, resulting in his convictions.  Farmer D's appeal of the convictions has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan.

The evidence at trial was that, in late 2009, Farmer S noticed that 10 yearling Simmental heifers were missing from his herd.  He called neighbours about the missing heifers, including the wife of Farmer D.  A few days later, another neighbour told Farmer S that he had seen about 10 Simmental cattle in the ditch along a road near the farms of Farmer D and Farmer S.  At trial, the hired man of Farmer D also testified that he had seen the cattle in and near the ditch and that he had told Farmer D about them.

A few days later, Farmer S observed a cattle truck in the yard of Farmer D with someone chasing cattle to the yard.  Farmer S was suspicious and began calling livestock facilities in search of his cattle.  Ultimately, it was determined that Farmer D had sold Farmer S' missing cattle, after having tagged their ears with his own tags.  The yellow "dangle" tags and the radio frequency tags applied by Farmer S had been removed.  The trial judge did not believe that Farmer D had failed to realize he was dealing with Farmer S' cattle.  For instance, the trial judge said that it was not within the realm of possibility that all of the tags applied by Farmer S had fallen out; he concluded that Farmer D had removed the Farmer S tags and replaced them with his own tags before selling the cattle.

The Court of Appeal rejected both arguments advanced by Farmer D; first that the trial judge had misapprehended the evidence and reached unreasonable verdicts and, second, that the judge erred by ignoring or overlooking the testimony of Farmer D's wife and daughter.  On the first argument, the Court of Appeal reviewed the factual findings of the trial judge and found that he had not misapprehended the evidence, which "pointed strongly in the direction of [Farmer D's] guilt".  On the second argument, the Court of Appeal found that the evidence of Farmer D's wife was not material given that Farmer D acknowledged that he had sold cattle belonging to Farmer S.  The evidence of Farmer D's daughter was not helpful either; it only indicated as a general proposition that cattle sometimes lose tags (and not that it was possible for all 10 missing heifers to lose their tags).

Read the decision at: 2014 SKCA 44 (CanLII).