Nov 27, 2014

Smith v Jones 1999 SCC Summary

Smith v. Jones, [1999] 1 SCR 455

Smith v Jones (1999 SCC), p. 167 [CL Rule: Judicial creation of public-safety exception to solicitor-client privilege as long as threat is clear + serious + imminent NOTE that court is VERY reluctant to grant this exception]

Facts: Jones charged aggravated assaulted prostitute. Lawyer referred him to psychiatrist, Smith (3rd party retained by lawyer so protected by solicitor-client privilege. Lawyer told him that consultation was privileged same way lawyer-client is. Accused told Smith of plan to assault and kill prostitute (booked time off work, told graphic details). Smith told lawyer that accused dangerous and needed treatment. Lawyer didn’t say anything. Smith finds out months later and commences this action for declaration that entitled to enclose info for public safety.

Issue: Can, or must, or cannot from disclosing?Would reasonable observer given all facts consider potential danger clear, serious, imminent?

Held: Allowed to set aside S-C privilege in this situation

Ratio (Cory J): YES. Strength and importance of privilege is subject to clearly defined limited exceptions.