Charges go poof
They’re starting to pile up and, rest assured, there will be more criminal cases stopped in this province before all of the effects of the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 decision in R vs. Jordan are known.
The landmark case started in British Columbia and involved Barrett Richard Jordan, who was charged in a dial-a-dope trafficking case. Problem was, the case took more than four years to reach a trial and verdict, 44 months of that time institutional delays and slowdowns caused by the prosecution.
In its verdict last July, the Supreme Court set down new, stricter rules for how long cases could drag on. In the absence of exceptional circumstances, the justices ruled that a case before provincial court should see an accused tried within 18 months. For higher courts, the timeframe is 30 months. If those timelines are not met, the accused can have their charges stayed.
In the last few weeks, stays have been popping up in this province.
In Labrador, an RCMP constable charged with child luring, Ian Kaulback, had his charges stayed after a judge determined Kaulback’s provincial court case would have been delayed by 33 months as a result of lags in receiving analyses of computer and Internet information.
Last week, a judge in Supreme Court in St. John’s abruptly stopped the well-publicized trial of Rob King of Heavyweights Training Centre. King had been charged in 2013 with three charges of exporting ephedrine. The judge will release her written reasons for accepting the defence argument of unreasonable delay later.
And there will be more cases stayed until more efficient court systems are in place.
Interestingly, applications to have prosecutions halted because of delays are putting their own weight on the justice system, slowing things down still further.
The judge who heard the Kaulback case wrote: “Defence applications for a stay of proceedings because of a breach of the accused’s Charter right to a trial within a reasonable time are never easy. They, first of all, involve a tremendous amount of work ... The logistics of the conduct of such applications usually result in multiple days of hearings, and sufficient time for judges to consider the evidence and law, and make a decision.”
The delays can be as simple as evidence not being released to the defence quickly, or caused by limited police resources being available to analyze complicated high-tech evidence, to the logistics of the courts themselves.
“An undercurrent running through this entire case, and many more in Labrador, is that we do not have enough courtrooms, judges, clerks, counsel, courthouse space and equipment to do all the justice system asks of us,” the judge in the Kaulback case wrote.
Be prepared: the cases so far are likely only the tip of the iceberg.
Jordan may end up being a household word.