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Queen's University

Faculty of Law

Queen’s Law professor wins top Canadian criminal justice award


Photo by James MacDonald

Professor Don Stuart addresses the audience at a Toronto reception held in his honour following the presentation of the G. Arthur Martin Criminal Justice Medal.

Professor Don Stuart has been awarded the 2012 G. Arthur Martin Criminal Justice Medal by the Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA). The award, for outstanding contributions to criminal justice in Canada, was presented in Toronto on November 17 at the CLA’s annual meeting.

“I'm so honoured,” said Stuart, “to receive this award in the name of a gentleman who in every sense devoted his life to enhancing the role of defence counsel and then, as a Court of Appeal judge, strove to make our justice system principled and better.”

Stuart, who has been teaching criminal law, criminal procedure and evidence at Queen’s since 1975, has been editor of Criminal Reports since 1982 and produces the National Judicial Institute Criminal Essentials, an e-letter for judges. He has written or co-authored leading texts and casebooks and numerous articles. 

His previous honours for these contributions include the Canadian Association of Law Teachers’ Award for Academic Excellence in 1998, the Phil Baker Award for Contributions to Criminal Justice in Kingston in 2008, the Ontario Bar Association’s Mundell Medal for Legal Writing in 2007, and the Queen’s Law Students’ Society (LSS) Teaching Awards in 2006 and 2009.


Photo by Aimee Burtch

The G. Arthur Martin Criminal Justice Award
A Rhodes Scholar who studied criminal law at both Cambridge and Oxford and earned his PhD from Oxford, Stuart has always had a strong sense of justice – a “pro-accused bias,” he calls it -- rooted in what his international education showed him about the imbalance of power between the individual and the state and the abuses that can flow from that, something well-illustrated by apartheid in his native South Africa. “When I grew up I realized how evil that dictatorial apartheid system was.”

Speaking to the CLA gathering about the importance of defence counsel, he advised practising lawyers that using textbooks and update services by academics will help them stay current in their specialty and find ideas for arguments. He warned that computer-driven research can result in the over-retrieval of minor precedents.

In reference to the current concerns about articling jobs for some graduates, he especially urged defence lawyers to hire articling students. Otherwise, he said, “the defence bar [would be] losing some terrific younger lawyers who are fighters, well motivated, and would do their very best.” In his opinion, such students bring strength to both the defence bar and the firms that hire them.

He went on to say that “in our criminal justice system the role of defence counsel is the most difficult,” but he urged lawyers to continue giving their clients the best defence they can.

At the award ceremony, one of Stuart’s former students, Law ’84 graduate Justice David Stratas of the Federal Court of Appeal, called him the ideal candidate for the medal. “Through his teaching and publishing, he has built an entire generation of criminal lawyers and criminal law academics. Don has some strong views about the criminal justice system and he’s never been shy to express them, sometimes forcefully.”

Following the ceremony, Queen’s Law held a reception at the National Club for alumni, friends, faculty, staff and Stuart family members (wife Pam and daughter Joanne, Law ’03).

Dean Bill Flanagan announced the Don Stuart Criminal Law Fund, an opportunity for the Faculty to celebrate his legacy and support the ongoing success of the criminal law program at Queen’s. The Fund will be used to maintain and enhance the program’s strength and reputation, facilitate part-time teaching and lecturing by criminal law practitioners and judges, and provide students with additional opportunities to gain practical skills and learn about careers in this field. 

David Finley, Law ’84, Deputy Director, Crown Law Office (Criminal), was among former students paying tribute to Stuart. “Don’s passion has been caring about people and their fair and just treatment. Such concerns have been manifested in his longstanding commitment to the principled development and application of criminal justice and the vigorous defence of constitutional rights.” 

Rob Thomson, Law ’13, LSS President, added, “At first it’s exciting just to be taught by a criminal law great who has been cited frequently by the Supreme Court of Canada, but as we all know Professor Stuart is much more than an academic to his students; he is also a continuous source of support and mentorship.”

For pictures of the reception, see the photo gallery.
Read about the Don Stuart Criminal Law Fund
To make a donation to the Don Stuart Criminal Law Fund, go to

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