The Supreme Court of Canada is being asked to hear an appeal of the case of Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh, whose convictions for sex-crimes against four boys in the 1970s were overturned.

An appeal court in Nova Scotia stayed the 17 charges last month, ruling there was too much of a delay in bringing MacIntosh to trial.

The provincial public prosecution service announced Friday it will file an application with the country's top court next week.

"We believe we have legal grounds involving issues of public importance which warrant consideration by the Supreme Court of Canada," said Martin Herschorn, director of the service.

"The arguments must be made first before the justices of the Supreme Court of Canada and that's what we're going to do."

The allegations against MacIntosh, a former Cape Breton businessman, surfaced in 1995, when he was living in India and working as a telecommunications specialist.

An extradition request was made in 2006. MacIntosh was arrested in April 2007 and brought back to Canada two months later. The first trial involving one group of complainants began in 2010.

In that trial and a second one last year, MacIntosh was convicted of 17 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency involving four complainants. He was sentenced to a total of 5½ years in prison, minus time spent in custody.

MacIntosh appealed those convictions.

All convictions overturned

In a decision last month, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal overturned all of the convictions, finding that MacIntosh's "right to be tried within a reasonable time was infringed."

"Applying the proper principles, and balancing the length of the delay with the explanation for it and the prejudice to the appellant and society’s interest in a trial on the merits, the delay was unreasonable," Justice Duncan Beveridge wrote.

The court also said the Crown did not proceed with due diligence in the case.

"While I see no basis to suggest a deliberate decision to delay, the conclusion is evident that the Crown did not proceed with due diligence," Beveridge wrote.

"There were lengthy periods of inactivity before and after the influx of additional complainants."

Crown attorney Jennifer MacLellan said at the time that MacIntosh was to blame for much of the delay.

Dave Mantin, the director of the Atlantic chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he's not surprised by news of the appeal.

"Between the public and political pressure that was put down in Nova Scotia, they had no choice but to do it," he said Friday.

Mantin said the MacIntosh case was watched closely by those who represent survivors of sexual abuse because it could set a precedent.

"If your case lasts longer than seven years, if you go on the run for seven years, you can go back and cite this MacIntosh case and have your case thrown out," he said.

The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to decide later this spring about whether it will hear the appeal.