Court­ing con­fu­sion

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.

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