Dad accused of breaking infant's bones to stand new trial after charge stayed

An Ottawa man accused of breaking his infant's ankles and whose criminal trial was stayed due to court delays was ordered to face a new trial after the Crown launched an appeal.

'I felt like everyone had let me down, and let my son down,' boy's mother says

An Ottawa father accused of breaking his two-week-old son's ankles will face a new trial after his charge was stayed due to court delays. (CBC)

An Ottawa man accused of breaking his infant son's bones and whose criminal trial was tossed out due to court delays has been ordered to face a new trial.

It was the best Christmas present I can ever ask for, to be honest.- Boy's mother

It is the second case in Ottawa so far that has been stayed because of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling and then overturned on appeal from the Crown — the first being a case of first-degree murder.

The boy's mother in this latest case has been waiting more than three years for justice for her young son. She cannot be identified in order to protect her son's identity.

She told CBC News she burst into tears when she learned about the Dec. 21 ruling.

'I felt just betrayed'

"It was the best Christmas present I can ever ask for, to be honest," she said.

"I felt like everyone had let me down, and let my son down, and everyone else who has been going through this. I felt just betrayed in a way that [this] would actually happen."

Soon after the young boy was sent to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) for X-rays on Sept. 25, 2014, the family was torn apart as fingers were starting to point toward the father.

Court records show Ottawa police conducted an investigation and then charged the boy's father, who was 20 at the time, with assault causing bodily harm on Dec. 30, 2014. Investigators accused him of breaking his son's ankles when the boy was just two weeks old. 

The father also cannot be named due to the publication ban on the boy's identity.

Case stayed in November 2016

On Nov. 29, 2016, Ontario Court Justice Mitchell Hoffman ruled the nearly two-year delay in getting the trial started was unreasonable and violated the father's constitutional right to a speedy trial. The judge relied on a 2016 ruling known as the Jordan decision from Canada's highest court, which set strict limits on when trials should be completed.

The boy's mother had been waiting for the trial to start when she got a call from the courthouse informing her she was no longer needed to testify because the case was being stayed.

Devastated by the news, she anxiously waited another 13 months for the appeal to work its way through the court.

"It's been, like, a long road … but in the end so far it turned out for the best and I thank the Lord for that every day," she said.

Seriousness of allegations overlooked: appeal judge

The Crown appealed the stay of proceedings, arguing the judge erred in calculating the length of delay and did not apply the Jordan law appropriately.

Superior Court Justice Michelle O'Bonsawin agreed. In her ruling last month, she said the trial judge "did not appropriately balance the rights of the [accused] with those of society."

"The seriousness of the allegations should have led the trial judge to have placed more emphasis on society's interest in a trial on its merits."

O'Bonsawin also ruled the defence waited until six days before the trial start date to request the infant's medical records held by CHEO. When the defence received hundreds of pages of records, the lawyer asked for an adjournment. 

She calculated the total court delay to be 23.6 months, but when factoring in delays attributed to the defence — 9.6 months — the remaining 14 months was "entirely reasonable," according to the ruling.

The case is being sent back to the Ontario Court of Justice for a new trial. A new trial date has not yet been set. 

The first Ottawa case to be stayed since the Jordan decision and then overturned on appeal was a first-degree murder trial. The total delay in that case was nearly four years and a Superior Court judge ruled it was unreasonable, letting accused killer Adam Picard walk free. However, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled the delay was justified and ordered a new trial. 

About the Author

Joe Lofaro

Web reporter

Joe Lofaro is a CBC News web reporter based in Ottawa. You can reach him by email at joe.lofaro@cbc.ca and on Twitter @giuseppelo.