R. v. Venneri – 2012 SCC 33 – Supreme Court Defines Criminal Organization

In R. v.
Venneri
, 2012 SCC 33 the Supreme Court confirmed that being a member of a criminal organizaton does not require formal membership.

Venneri was tried jointly with two other alleged members of a criminal organization on a multi-count indictment. The trial judge, in a decision cited as 2009 QCCQ 1916, convicted Venneri of eight offences, including the commission of an offence for a criminal organization, contrary to s. 467.12 of the Criminal Code (count 3); instructing the commission of an offence for a criminal organization, contrary to s. 467.13 of the Code (count 5); and possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, contrary to s. 5(2) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (count 4). Venneri apealed. The Quebec Court of Appeal, in a decision cited as 2011 QCCA 1957, entered acquittals on counts 3 and 5, which both alleged criminal organization offences. For the majority, Beauregard, J.A., found that Venneri was not a member of a criminal organization and had neither trafficked nor instructed anyone to traffic in cocaine “for the benefit of” or “in association with” a criminal organization, within the meaning of ss. 467.12 and 467.13 of the Code. The

Court of Appeal also quashed Venneri’s conviction for possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking (count 4). The majority held that the evidence failed to demonstrate that Venneri jointly possessed the cocaine seized at the homes of two unindicted co-conspirators. In dissent, Duval Hesler, J.A. (as she then was), found that the verdicts rendered by the trial judge were supported by the evidentiary record. The Crown appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada allowed the appeal in part. The court agreed with Beauregard, J.A., that the Crown failed to prove that Venneri was a member of a criminal organization. However, the court was satisfied that Venneri trafficked in cocaine “in association with” a criminal organization, as alleged in count 3. The court therefore affirmed the acquittals entered by the Court of Appeal on counts 4 and 5, but restored the conviction on count 3.