THE ADVOCATE 679
VOL. 77 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2019
the circumstances surrounding the guilty plea must be examined. In the
absence of mitigating factors that led to the guilty plea, such as fraud or
coercion, a plea of guilty to assault causing bodily harm is a piece of evidence
that is given considerable weight in a civil action for damages arising
from the same assault.
The indelicate facts giving rise to Mr. Cromarty’s lawsuit against Mr. Monteith
have a distinct flavour of Ocean Falls about them. Mr. Justice Wilson
began his reasons for judgment as follows:
This is an action for damages for assault. The plaintiff was a guest in the
defendant’s house. Liquor circulated freely and the plaintiff and probably
the defendant had taken their full share. The defendant surprised the
plaintiff in the process of an amorous molestation of the defendant’s wife.
He told the plaintiff to leave his house.
The defendant arranged with his wife to go with him to a café and sent her
ahead. When he emerged to join her, he found the plaintiff once again
pressing his unwelcome attentions upon the defendant’s wife. They were
struggling with one another. He attacked the plaintiff and gave him a
rather savage beating in the course of which the plaintiff’s false teeth were
broken, a bone in his cheek was fractured and his face badly battered.
Mr. Monteith was charged with assault causing bodily harm and pled guilty
in the Ocean Falls Police Court. He was defending the honour of his wife. Mr.
Cromarty sued Mr. Monteith to recover, amongst other things, the cost of
replacing his damaged dentures and to some extent his damaged pride. The
learned respected Wilson J., who had practised law in Penticton before his
exemplary career as a judge and had probably seen cases like this before in
practice, awarded Mr. Cromarty special damages of $317 which included the
cost of new dentures, a fee of $10 charged by the Ocean Falls Hospital, and
general damages of $200 for his pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
The total judgment was $517. In language as compact and compelling as his
opening paragraph, Wilson J. concluded his judgment as follows:
The plaintiff lied to me. He sought to traduce the character of a decent
woman, the defendant’s wife, by saying that she had invited and welcomed
his advances. I consider this an adequate reason for refusing him
There are two remarkable things about this decision. One is that it captures
an aspect of life in Ocean Falls that was not uncommon: a house party
where alcohol flowed freely and social inhibitions were ignored and
relaxed. The other is that the reasons for judgment are three pages long following
a one-day trial. After more than half a century, it still represents the
most authoritative statement of the law on a contentious issue of evidence.
Today, the trial would have lasted a week and the reasons for judgment
would be thirty pages long.