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Alberta Court of Appeal orders new trial for man acquitted of beating four-year-old

Man was found not guilty last year of aggravated assault on his four-year-old stepdaughter, who suffered a life-altering head injury.
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Court of Appeal at the Edmonton Law Courts building, in Edmonton on June 28, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

CALGARY — The Alberta Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial for a man found not guilty of aggravated assault on his four-year-old stepdaughter, who suffered a life-altering head injury.

Tyler Laberge of Calgary was accused of beating the girl while she was in his care in March 2018.

Laberge testified that he heard a loud thud while the child was in the bathtub, found her face down in the water, pulled her out and performed CPR. 

Medical experts testified that it was extremely improbable the child suffered her injuries from a simple fall and it appeared she had received multiple blows to the head.

Last year, provincial court Judge Terry Semenuk acquitted Laberge, saying it was possible there was an innocent explanation for the injuries. 

The Crown appealed and the Court of Appeal agreed the trial judge made errors.

"In our view, the trial judge wrongly concluded the experts usurped his role as the trier of fact in giving opinions in relation to the mechanism and cause of injuries," reads Wednesday's judgment written by Justice Barbara Lea Veldhuis.

"Moreover, the trial judge wrongly considered the evidence on a piecemeal basis and applied a standard of proof to the expert opinions that exceeded the Crown’s overarching burden of proof. In the result, the appeal is allowed and a new trial is ordered."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 30, 2022.

The Canadian Press