Azoulay v R

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Azoulay v R
Supreme Court of Canada
Hearing: Unknown
Judgment: November 4, 1952
Full case name Leon Azoulay v. Her Majesty the Queen
Citations [1952] 2 S.C.R. 495
Prior history Judgement for the Crown in the Court of King's Bench, Appeal side, Province of Quebec.
Ruling Appeal allowed
A trial judge is required to review with the jury the substantial parts of the evidence and give the theory of the defence to the jury. When the evidence is technical, it is important for the judge to strip the evidence of the non-essentials.
Court Membership
Chief Justice: Thibaudeau Rinfret
Puisne Justices: Patrick Kerwin, Robert Taschereau, Ivan Rand, Roy Kellock, James Wilfred Estey, Charles Holland Locke, John Robert Cartwright, Gerald Fauteux
Reasons given
Plurality Taschereau J., joined by Rinfret C.J.
Concurrence Estey J.
Dissent Rand J.
Dissent Fauteux J.
Kerwin, Kellock, Locke, and Cartwright JJ. took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Azoulay v R, [1952] 2 S.C.R. 495 was a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada on abortion in Canada. The Court found that with evidence so complicated, a judge should summarize it to a jury.


Dr. Leon Azoulay was accused of murder after one of his patients died. This woman, described by Justice Estey as "Mrs. P.", had allegedly received an abortion from Dr. Azoulay which wound up causing a fatal haemorrhage. An autopsy revealed evidence of an abortion.

At trial, the judge spoke about the law under which Dr. Azoulay was charged, and told the jury that if they found Dr. Azoulay guilty, there must be evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. He also declined to summarize the facts of the case, saying that they "have been well elaborated by the Defence and the Crown."[1] Dr. Azoulay was found guilty of manslaughter. Quebec's court of appeal upheld the conviction, albeit with the Chief Justice dissenting that the trial judge's discussion with the jury was inadequate.


The Supreme Court overturned the trial. Justice Taschereau wrote an opinion saying he could imagine that there was sufficient evidence to convict Dr. Azoulay. However, he agreed with the dissenting Chief Justice in the lower court that the trial judge "failed to instruct properly the jury, in omitting to review the evidence."[2] Taschereau pointed to Spencer v. Alaska Parkers (1905) to say precedent had been established that judges should help guide the jury in giving "value and effect" to certain pieces of evidence.[3] Thus, needless details were not discarded, and the jury was "left in a state of confusion."[4]

Justice Estey, in his opinion, wrote that the evidence in this case was "technical and somewhat involved," and that made it all the more necessary that a judge should help summarize the facts and distinguish important evidence from needless details. In particular, he found that the defence arguments were not adequately presented.[5]


Two dissents were written by Justices Rand and Fauteax. Rand wrote that the defence was not actually complex, and the facts were generally accepted. For a judge to summarize the defence's arguments would have been redundant after a simple point had been repeated and explored many times.[6]

Justice Fauteux wrote that if the trial judge had summarized the expert testimony, this would work against rather than favour the defence's case.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Page 503.
  2. ^ Page 497.
  3. ^ Pages 497-498.
  4. ^ Page 499.
  5. ^ Pages 503-504.
  6. ^ Page 500.

External links[edit]