Mix-up leaves North Sydney couple feeling they were denied justice
A mix-up over courtrooms has left a North Sydney couple feeling like they’ve been denied justice.
Joe Yorke and his partner, Diana Liosel, were scheduled to testify this week in Sydney provincial court in the case of Jonas Lee McDonald, 28, also of North Sydney.
McDonald was charged with aggravated assault after he was alleged to have slugged Yorke in the face when Yorke answered the front door of his home around 9 p.m. on May 16, 2016.
Yorke suffered extensive facial injuries including a broken jaw and cheekbone. He no longer has any feeling in the right side of his face that is now being supported by metal pins.
“I have that feeling on the side of face like you do when you have a paper cut. The doctor said it might go away but it has been almost a year,” said Yorke, during an interview with the Cape Breton Post.
The injuries have cost the couple some $12,000 in out of pocket expenses for things like missed work and trips to his doctor in Halifax.
In arriving at the Sydney Justice Centre prior to the 9:30 a.m. start of the trial, the couple, along with the accused and his supporters, gathered outside a second floor courtroom.
“We were told that was the courtroom where the trial would be held,” said Loisel, adding that about an hour after the trial was scheduled to start, they became concerned.
They went to the Victim Services office on the fourth floor and a representative took them to the court administration office on the first floor.
The administration clerk was unable to find McDonald on the docket. Yorke and Loisel returned to the second floor to again check the bulletin board.
They were advised to return to the Victim Services office where they met prosecutor Mark Gouthro.
Gouthro explained the trial was to proceed in a courtroom on the first floor and when the case was called and there were no Crown witnesses, he dismissed the charge. The court record also indicates the defence lawyer was present but the accused was not in court.
Gouthro apologized for what had happened.
“His cheek is now held together by pins and bits of skin and we’re out $12,000 which we will likely never recover. That is worth more than ‘I’m sorry,’” said Loisel, who plans on filing a formal complaint with the provincial justice officials in a bid to protect others from experiencing a similar outcome.
Yorke and Loisel said they did everything they were told to do by police and Victim Services and are now left feeling revictimized.
“All we wanted some answers. All of the court officials had our contact numbers and someone could have called us,” said.
“We’re not the type to usually raise our voices but this is not right or fair,” she said.
The posting and composition of court dockets in the Sydney Justice Centre is less than ideal. While the provincial court dockets are posted on bulletin boards, those for Supreme Court family and trial divisions are taped to the walls inside the facility’s two elevators. Such a practice lends itself to the information being pulled down by disgruntled court participants while others have written unflattering comments next to some of the cases listed.
On the provincial court docket, the column after the name of the accused is titled room and to many, that suggests the courtroom number where the case will be heard.
But the number listed under the room is actually the number assigned to the presiding judge and has nothing to do with the courtroom.
For Yorke and Loisel, their case was listed as room 402 which led them and the representative from Victim Services to believe it was the courtroom on the second floor.
The trial, had it proceeded, was actually held in courtroom 11 located on the first floor.
Yorke and Loisel may still have a chance at having their day in court.
The Crown served notice Friday to McDonald’s defence lawyer that it plans on making application to Supreme Court to reinstate the charge and proceed to trial.
Such an opportunity exists only for cases that were never adjudicated.
While Yorke is appreciative of the step taken by the Crown, he will now and wait and see what a Supreme Court judge decides.
The application to reinstate the charge is expected to be filed late next week.
An unhappy Joe Yorke sits in the living room of his North Sydney home. Yorke was slammed in the face by an individual who was subsequently charged with aggravated assault. The charge was dismissed as a result of a mix-up over courtrooms.
After answering his front door in May 2016, Joe Yorke, of North Sydney, was punched in the face shattering his check bone and breaking his jaw. He continues to suffer from his injury that resulted in his cheekbone being replaced with pins.