Quebecer accused of murder should never have had charge stayed, Crown says

A judge did not take into account delays caused by a Sri Lankan man's defence team when granting a stay of proceedings in a case, Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecution said in a document obtained by Radio-Canada.

Crown argues judge erred in Sivaloganathan Thanabalasingham case, appeal documents show

Quebec's Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) says the defence team for Sivaloganathan Thanabalasingam, centre, played a key role in causing the delays that got his charges stayed. Thanabalasingam was facing a second-degree murder charge in the death of his wife. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Quebec's Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) says the defence team for a Sri Lankan man who was facing a second-degree murder charge played a key role in causing the delays that got his charges stayed.

Radio-Canada has obtained the brief that outlines the Crown's arguments for its appeal of the decision to stay the murder charge against Sivaloganathan Thanabalasingham, who was recently deported.

The brief says the Superior Court Justice Alexandre Boucher erred when he didn't consider delays caused by Thanabalasingham and his legal team, as well as the complexity of the case, when he granted the defence's request to have the case stayed.

Sivaloganathan Thanabalasingham, centre, was deported to Sri Lanka in early July. (Sean Henry / CBC)
Thanabalasingham was accused of fatally stabbing his wife, Anuja Baskaran, in 2012. But that charge was stayed earlier this year after Boucher ruled his case had taken too long — 55 months — to get to trial.

He became the first Quebecer charged with murder to have his case stayed because of the so-called Jordan ruling, issued by the Supreme Court of Canada last July, which imposed new deadlines on the justice system to avoid unreasonable trial delays.

Trials involving less serious offences must be wrapped up within 18 months and those involving more serious charges, including murder, face a 30-month deadline.

Defence turns down dates

In the document, the Crown contends that initially Thanabalasingham's trial was set to begin in 2018. But during a court date in January 2016, a judge proposed two earlier dates, one in April of that year and another in March 2017.

The defence turned down both dates, saying it wouldn't have time to prepare for the first date, and would be tied up with another case on the second. Both sides agreed to begin the trial April 10, 2017.

The Crown also says Thanabalasingham's team requested a "voluntary examination" during the preliminary inquiry, which added an extra 11 months to the process. It's not clear from the documents what the nature of that examination was.

However, in his ruling, Boucher cited a lack of resources in the justice system and what he called the Crown's "questionable procedural choices" as the reasons behind the delays, and at least partially for his decision to stay the charges.

The case is now before the Quebec Court of Appeal, which will hear arguments beginning Sept. 13.

Thanabalasingham's lawyers have until Aug.15 to submit their arguments.

Accused sought deportation

Thanabalasingham came to Canada in 2004 as a refugee and eventually became a permanent resident.

The 32-year-old had previously pleaded guilty to domestic assault charges related to three incidents in 2011 and 2012, also involving his wife, Anuja  Baskaran. He was ordered to serve four months in jail. 

As a result of that conviction, he was facing a deportation order to Sri Lanka, which he initially opposed. But in May, he dropped his appeal of the order and asked to be deported as soon as possible. 

He was eventually deported in early July, despite the Crown's appeal of the stay of proceedings. 

With files from The Canadian Press