Sys­tem ‘fails’ cou­ple

Un­pro­voked as­sault at their home in North Syd­ney, N.S.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC -

Joe Yorke and Diane Loisel be­lieved they would find jus­tice after an un­pro­voked as­sault at their front door left Yorke with a per­ma­nent fa­cial in­jury.

More than a year later, the North Syd­ney cou­ple say they’ve been let down by a crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem that failed to hold any­one re­spon­si­ble for the crime — and they want to make sure no one else suf­fers the same fate.

“We were re-vic­tim­ized by a sys­tem that was sup­posed to pro­tect us. What kind of mes­sage does that send to the pub­lic?” said Loisel.

“This should never have hap­pened to us and should never hap­pen again to any­one else.”

Their or­deal be­gan at about 9 p.m. on May 16, 2016, when some­one knocked on the front door of Yorke and Loisel’s home on Cale­do­nia Street.

Yorke an­swered the door and was sud­denly punched back­ward by a sin­gle blow to the face. Loisel grabbed the phone and called 911.

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 sup­ported by metal pins and bits of skin.

The in­juries have cost the cou­ple about $12,000 in out-of­pocket ex­penses.

Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Po­lice ar­rested a sus­pect, Jonas Lee Mac­Don­ald, 29, of North Syd­ney, and charged him with as­sault caus­ing bod­ily harm.

Nei­ther Yorke or Loisel had any prior deal­ings with Mac­Don­ald and he was un­known to them.

Mac­Don­ald was re­leased on con­di­tions, and after en­ter­ing a not guilty plea was as­signed a trial date of Feb. 22, 2017.

On the day of the trial, Crown at­tor­ney Mark Gouthro told provin­cial court Judge Peter Ross that he couldn’t pro­ceed be­cause his two wit­nesses — Yorke and Loisel —

were miss­ing.

A sher­iff deputy called out their names in the hall­way out­side the first-floor court­room. After hear­ing no re­sponse, the Crown said it was of­fer­ing no ev­i­dence and the case was dis­missed.

The ac­cused was also not in the court­room at the time.

Yorke, Loisel and the ac­cused were in fact at the Syd­ney Jus­tice Cen­tre. But they were wait­ing out­side a court­room on the se­cond floor.

“On the Fri­day be­fore the trial, we did a tour of the court­room with a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Vic­tim Ser­vices and were told to be sure to wait out­side the se­cond-floor court­room for our names to be called,” said Loisel, adding that the in­ci­dent was their first en­counter with the jus­tice sys­tem.

As a court de­ci­sion ac­knowl­edged this week, the Crown’s wit­nesses were not miss­ing but sim­ply mis­placed. But that means they won’t get an­other chance at a trial.

Yorke and Loisel say they did ev­ery­thing right. They were co-op­er­a­tive with po­lice. They con­tacted Vic­tim Ser­vices for in­for­ma­tion on the court process. They shared their con­tact in­for­ma­tion with ev­ery­one work­ing on their case. And they told po­lice and oth­ers they were ready and will­ing to tes­tify and anx­iously look­ing for­ward to their day in court.

“Now all we get is. ‘I’m sorry.’ “I’m tired of hear­ing that,” said Loisel, who is de­mand­ing an­swers from au­thor­i­ties.

Nova Sco­tia’s Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice tried to cor­rect the er­ror. It filed two ap­peal ap­pli­ca­tions — one in Nova Sco­tia Supreme Court and the other in provin­cial court, in a bid to have the ear­lier dis­missal re­versed.

Both ap­pli­ca­tions were un­suc­cess­ful. The cou­ple is fil­ing com­plaints with the Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, Vic­tim Ser­vices and oth­ers in the hope of find­ing an­swers as to why their case went hor­ri­bly wrong.

CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD PHOTO

North Syd­ney res­i­dents Joe Yorke and Diane Loisel re­view a re­cent court de­ci­sion that re­jected a Crown bid to have a charge re-filed against a man charged with as­sault­ing Yorke. The charge was dis­missed at the out­set of a sched­uled trial and two at­tempts to have it re­in­stated were de­nied. The cou­ple now say the jus­tice sys­tem failed them and they want an­swers.

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