Sep 21, 2020

In a professional misconduct case, the prosecution decides what seed to plant in the wording of the allegations. The prosecution is then restricted to reaping findings only from those allegations. It cannot try to reap a different harvest after the seed has sprouted. That is the lesson gleaned from Meier v Saskatchewan Institute of Agrologists, 2016 SKCA 116. The allegation there was that Mr. Meier had made false and misleading statements about a seed planting experiment he had conducted. The “particular” (i.e., the specific facts supporting the allegation) that was alleged against him was that Mr. Meier had failed to disclose that the difference in growth was the result of different seed planting depths and not the manner in which the fertilizer had been administered. However, at the hearing the prosecution had difficulty establishing that “particular” because its key witness could not establish with certainty which field of crops he had examined. The Discipline Committee made a finding against Mr. Meier on the basis that he had not followed a proper scientific method in making his claims. The Court of Appeal found that this shift of focus was unfair to Mr. Meier because he had prepared his entire defence based on the seed-depth issue. He had not been properly notified of the particular upon which the Committee had based its finding. The hearing was thus unfair and the result reversed. Wording of the statement of allegations, particularly (no pun intended) in standards of practice cases, is extremely important.