More accused murderers could walk free if trial delays continue: critics
Published Monday, November 28, 2016 5:53PM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 28, 2016 9:18PM EST
Legal analysts say Canadians can expect more accused murderers and others facing serious charges to walk free because their trials have been delayed beyond what the Supreme Court ruled last year is reasonable.
More than 150 defendants have requested a stay of proceedings in Quebec alone since last July’s Supreme Court decision, according to Parti Quebecois justice critic Veronique Hivon.
It’s not just Quebec where the extreme delays mean people are unable to get their days in court. Last month, an Edmonton court judge stayed a murder charge against a man accused in a 2011 stabbing death of Mason Tex Montgrand because the accused had waited four years for his trial. Weeks later, an Ontario court justice dismissed a murder charge against a man accused of first-degree murder in the death of Fouad Nayel, also because the accused had waited four years.
Hivon said that unless Quebec’s Liberals increase funding to courts, hundreds or even thousands of people charged with serious crimes such as sexual assault and fraud could have their cases stayed. A stay means the accused walks free without having to go through a trial.
In last July’s decision, the Supreme Court set out 18 months for provincial court offences and 30 months for cases before superior courts as the reasonable delay. That case involved a B.C. drug-dealer named Barrett Richard Jordan, who had waited 49 months between arrest and conviction on trafficking heroin and cocaine, so the ruling is referred to as the “Jordan decision.”
The court ruled a specific time limit for trials was needed due to a “culture of complacency” in the justice system about ensuring the Charter right to a criminal trial “within a reasonable time.”
CTV legal analyst Edward Prutschi told CTV News Channel that the unreasonable delays and the tossing of the cases is leaving the justice system in disrepute.
Prutschi said that it is “incredibly traumatic” to be charged with a crime, so it is unreasonable for an accused -- who may be innocent and could be jailed pending trial -- to wait too long.
But when cases get tossed that’s also regrettable, according to Prutschi, because the “complainants who have brought forward those offences and the public that expects there to be a trial on that basis will never get one.”
Steven Skurka, who is also a CTV legal analyst, said the delays are happening across the country because there aren’t enough courts, there aren’t enough judges, and lawyers “aren’t as efficient as they should be.”
Skurka said the stayed murder charges should be a “huge wake-up call” for governments who fund the system and for lawyers who request delays or take longer than is needed to prepare their cases.
With files from The Canadian Press