Charges go poof

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - ED­I­TO­RIAL -

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.

Re­cently, 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.

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