There was a complaint of loud music, noisily coming from MacDonald's Halifax condominium unit to which the Police responded. In an attempt to get MacDonald to answer his door, an officer started knocking on and kicking the door. The officer shouted that Halifax Regional Police is where he was from. The door was opened about 16 inches by MacDonald. In MacDonald's right hand, hidden partially by his right leg, the officer noticed a "black and shiny" thing. MacDonald was asked twice what was behind his leg. He did not respond. A few inches further, the door was pushed open by the officer, wanting to get a better impression at what was in MacDonald's hand. The officer recognized the object as a handgun. He forced his way inside and a struggle ensued which led to MacDonald being disarmed of a loaded handgun. The gun MacDonald had in his hands was a restricted firearm registered to him and was loaded. MacDonald was charged with, among other things, handling a firearm in a careless way or with no reasonable precautions for the safety of other people. This was contrary to Section 86(1) of the Criminal Code. He also faced charges of illegally possessing a weapon for a reason dangerous to public peace, contrary to Section 88(1). MacDonald was also charged with being in possession of a loaded restricted firearm lacking a license or an authorization under which he could own the said firearm in Nova Scotia, contrary to Section 95(1). MacDonald was certified to have and transport the gun in Alberta and not in Nova Scotia like he was supposed.
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The judge at trial held that MacDonald's possession of the gun was illegal. The judge also concluded that the pushing the door open further by the officer did not breach MacDonald's Section 8 Charter right of freedom from unreasonable search. The judge convicted MacDonald of handling a firearm carelessly, possessing a weapon for a dangerous reason, and possessing a loaded restricted firearm. MacDonald was sentenced to three years in prison and 10 years prohibition from weapons. On appeal, the trial judge's decision was made that there was no breach of MacDonald's Section 8 Charter right by the officer, it was upheld by Nova Scotia Court of Appeal's majority. This court held that the officer genuinely exercised the authority of police to search without a warrant where public or police safety was at stake. The Court of Appeal upheld his convictions of Section 86 and 88 Criminal Code, but considerably reduced the sentences. However, the Court of Appeal allowed MacDonald's appeal of his Section 95 conviction and alternated an acquittal. It was the court's holding that MacDonald ought to be acquitted on grounds of an honest mistaken belief that his license extended to his condominium in Halifax. The court held that the belief as a mistake of fact which invalidated the area of the Section 95 offence. The court reduced the sentence for the offence of Section 88 to time served, which was 18 days and the Section 86 offence sentence to 14 days, running concurrently.
MacDonald appealed on the Section 8, the Charter issue. The Crown filed an appealed on the acquittal on the Section 95 offence. MacDonald's appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Canada, finding that Section 8 of the Charter had not been violated. The Crown's appeal was allowed by the court, restoring the conviction under Section 95(1). The Supreme Court sent the matter to the Court of Appeal for sentencing. Wagner, Moldaver and Rothstein, JJ., agreed with the result, but disagreed on the correct interpretation of R. v. Mann in the determination of the Section 8 Charter issue.
Liberalism is devoted to a conception of justice that is not substantive but is procedural or formal. According to Karl Klare, it is the belief of liberals that each person holds morals subjectively. A reflection of a person's own yearnings and appetite is made from these morals. He is of the view that the rightness of one's behavior should be judged by the effects of his acts that are in question (Bauman, 2002 p.17). David Price defines legal liberalism in terms of rule of law and individual rights. Roberto Unger develops this definition further by stating that liberalism is the type of law dedicated to being autonomous, general, positive and public. In short, that which is receptive to the rule of law that is ideal (Finnis, 2011 p.322)
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Liberal jurisprudence has developed to keep up with the changes in capitalism. It left behind the old-fashioned concept of justice, or the rights and benefits distribution in terms of birth hierarchy or privilege. In ancient Greece, justice was taken to be to be the principle through which rights and benefits were determined. Discussion of justice was done just like discussing a social theory. Hobbes and Locke emerged with the liberal view of law in the seventeenth- century. The definition of law changed to be that it is "a distinct body of norms and represented state power against the citizens and people's powers against the state. It meant that enactment of law by the state was to be an attempt to update and adjust the legal duties and rights of the citizens (Rossides, 1998 p. 297)
Although liberalism has undergone a lot of changes over the years, some of its elements have not changed. Individualism is one of those elements. People have their own unique identities, and every individual is capable of developing their own causes to their level best. A person's liberty however, may be a threat to the liberty of another person. Liberalism therefore dictates that one can be as free as possible, but his freedom should not inflict on the freedom of another.
Another element of liberalism is freedom and liberty. This allows everyone to act in whichever way they want, provided they do not interfere with the freedom of others. The element of reason brings in the rational structure of the world, and being able to resolve individual differences through arguments and debates rather than through war. The element of equality provides that everyone should be given an equal opportunity in what they chose to do and thus support the meritocracy principle. This is where natural talent and hard work reflects one's values. Individuals should begin on a level playing ground and the best will emerge at the top.
Constitutionalism as an element of liberalism is of the belief in a government whose checks and balances are subject to the constitution. A bill of right and a constitution which is codified regulates the government to avoid a tyranny.
The rightness of one's behavior should be judged by the effects of his acts that are in question (Bauman, 2002 p.17). In MacDonald's case, it can be seen that he was asked, twice, what he was holding in his hands but he refused to answer. In this light, the ruling made that his Section 8 Charter right was not violated, because he ought to have foreseen that the officer had to be alarmed by the presence of the handgun in his hand, whether licensed or not. MacDonald's lack of response made it even more alarming. Had he responded, the officer would not have had cause to push the door open further. The officer had reasonable ground to believe that his safety or that of the public was at risk. MacDonald should have responded to the officer's inquiry as he had clearly stated, in shouting, that he was from Halifax Regional Police. There was, therefore, no infringement on MacDonald's individual liberty as the search fell within the officer's power.
On constitutionalism, the court embraced the fact that MacDonald had his rights to protect and be protected. This was through the acceptance of the Section 8 Charter issue in the matter. Section 8 in this case had that a person had the right to be free from arbitrary search. MacDonald is appreciated to have this right though he waived it by not responding to the officer's inquiry of what he had in his hand. His right for privacy in this case had not been interfered with as he had the simple option of letting the officer know that he was holding a gun. The fact that he was allowed to appeal, first in the court of appeal and finally in the Supreme Court, is a clear indication that natural justice was observed. His constitutional right to a fair trial was afforded him (Wolfe, 2009 p.5).
Every right carries a corresponding duty. MacDonald had the right to be free from unwarranted search. This in turn came with a duty on his part to answer the police officer's questions. His rightful acquisition of the gun came with a corresponding duty to ensure that it was properly licensed. The fact that the license on the gun did not cover Nova Scotia indicated that he ought to have known that it was illegal to possess a loaded gun. His being licensed to possess a gun generally imposed a duty of care on him. He was not to handle it in a manner that would jeopardize public safety.
On individualism, the court, despite acknowledging MacDonald's personal liberty, took into consideration the freedom and rights of the public. A person's liberty should not be a threat to the liberty of another person. Liberalism dictates that one can be as free as possible, but his freedom should not inflict on the freedom of another.