System ‘fails’ couple
Unprovoked assault at their home in North Sydney, N.S.
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 —
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.
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.