A Supreme Court of Canada landmark decision that has been used to toss out criminal charges including murder, child luring and sexual assault due to unreasonable delays is also being used to dismiss parking tickets in Ottawa.
On one day alone in July, an Ottawa justice of the peace threw out 14 parking tickets because it took too long for the cases to get to trial, CBC News has learned.
It happened more than a year after the Supreme Court of Canada's Jordan decision set strict deadlines for trials. Delays beyond 30 months for Superior Court cases and 18 months at provincial courts violate the accused's charter right to be tried within a reasonable time.
'This is just not the kind of offence in which Jordan was intended.' - Blair Crew, University of Ottawa law professor
The City of Ottawa said it hasn't tracked how many regulatory charges have been tossed because of the Jordan decision, but added it's not unusual for defendants to want to fight parking infractions in person in court.
Blair Crew, a lawyer and part-time University of Ottawa law professor, said the Jordan ruling shouldn't apply to parking tickets.
"This is just not the kind of offence in which Jordan was intended," he said.
"The Jordan decision wasn't intended for the small regulatory offences, but rather was aimed at the true penal offences."
Not the same stress as criminal offence
Part of the rationale behind the Jordan decision is that the accused faces prejudice while they wait for a trial. It can be stressful with the threat of jail time hanging over their head, Crew explained.
For example, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out an accused drug dealer's case because he had to wait five years for a trial. James Cody's lawyer argued he was vilified in his community and lost his job.
It's a different story for someone caught speeding.
"In the public perception there's just not the same stigma attached to anyone that speeds, let alone anyone that parks in the wrong place," Crew said.
Manitoba Justice Vic Toews, who once served as Stephen Harper's minister of justice, overturned a precedent-setting decision in March that dismissed a traffic ticket because it took too long for the case to get to trial.
Toews found there was no evidence the 18-month wait was unreasonable.
Tickets totalled over $2K in revenue
The 14 tickets tossed out at parking court in Ottawa on July 19 totalled more than $2,000 in lost parking revenue.
Parking infractions fall under the responsibility of the City of Ottawa, which said the prosecution unit agreed to stay the tickets because they exceeded 18-month time to trial. The tickets were originally issued between October 2015 and January 2016.
"Such occurrences are rare," Stuart Huxley, the city's senior legal council, wrote in a statement to CBC News.
The city declined CBC's request for an interview and provided written statements instead. City clerk and solicitor Rick O'Connor wrote that the city is aware of the Jordan decision.
"While this decision is in the context of criminal charges and not directly regulatory charges, the Ottawa Provincial Offences Court has not seen any significant issues relating to delays in prosecuting matters to trial, any more so than before the Jordan decision was issued," O'Connor wrote.
The city said its provincial offences court has a relatively short time-to-trial average compared to other municipalities across Ontario. It has added additional court sessions this summer and fall to ensure the court schedule is running on time.
Timeline shouldn't be as strict
Legal experts have mixed reactions to the Jordan decision being used on tickets and fines.
Dalhousie University Prof. Stephen Coughlan, who has spent the last 30 years studying the right to a trial in a reasonable time, said a time limit should apply to parking tickets, but not the strict 18-month deadline.
"It's a little surprising," said Coughlan. "The actual stress caused by the fact that, 'Oh no I'm going to have go to trial over this parking ticket,' is really not the same I would suspect as theft or assault."
Carissima Mathen, a University of Ottawa law professor, feels differently.
"Why should very minor offences be languishing in the system for years, what is the social value in that?" she questioned.
"Especially if it means that courts are going to be having to devote resources to these cases as opposed to more serious offences."
Both provincial and Ottawa officials confirmed to CBC they are not tracking how many regulatory charges under the provincial offences act are thrown out because of the Jordan decision.
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