Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Alibi Definition:

A defence to a criminal charge to the effect that the accused was elsewhere than at the scene of the alleged crime.

Latin: elsewhere.

In R v Gottschall, Justice Macdonald adopted these words:

"A prisoner or accused person is said to set up an alibi when he alleges that at the time when the offence with which he is charged was committed he was elsewhere. That is, at a place so far distant from that at which it was committed that he could not have been guilty."

Justice Townshend wrote, in R v Haynes:

"An alibi means proof of the absence of the accused at the time the crime is supposed to be committed, satisfactory proof that he is in some place else at the time."

Often described in criminal law textbooks as a defence, it is not really a defence per se.

In R v Demers, Justice Hall wrote:

"In its essence a defence of alibi is nothing more than a plea of not guilty, because the accused was not present at the place where the offence was committed on the occasion indicated.

"Once introduced, the evidence of the prosecution is, for the moment, suspended, and the judge or jury is bound to examine the evidence offered in support of the alibi, since it is clear that, if the alibi be established, the accused could not be the guilty party."

In R v Hibbert, ¶55, Justice Arbour agreed with the following instructions to a jury where an alibi has been raised by the defence:

"... if you accept the evidence in support of the defence of alibi, you must return a verdict of not guilty if you find that these times just do not allow for this accused to have committed the acts alleged.

"If you do not accept the evidence in support of the defence of alibi, but you are left in a reasonable doubt about it, you must return a verdict of not guilty.

"Even if you are not left in a reasonable doubt by the evidence in support of the defence of alibi, you must still go on to determine whether or not on the basis of all the evidence the accused is guilty."


  • R v Demers (1926) 4 DLR 991 (Quebec)
  • R. Gottschall 10 CCC 3d 447 (NSSC, 1983)
  • R v Haynes 23 CCC101 (NSSC, 1914)
  • R v Hibbert [2002] 2 SCR 445
  • R v Littleboy (1934) 2 KB 408

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