Two court cases this week remind us once again, just how frustratingly slow
our justice system is, and how painful it can be for the victims of crimes and
Just ask Connie Whitman.
On May 13, 2009, more than three years ago, Whitman's daughter, Chelsea,
and another employee of the Beazley Bowling Alley, were kidnapped shortly after
leaving work, and forced to return to the alley to open the safe. They were
forcibly taken away and left in a remote area.
Thursday, Whitman was in courtroom 302 at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia
to see Coulton Downey, one of the five men arrested in this case, sentenced for
She left bitterly disappointed.
The case was adjourned because Downey's lawyer, Lyle Howe complained he
only received the six page pre-sentence report a half hour before court, and he
needed time to review it with his client.
Outside court, a "stunned" Connie Whitman said she's had enough.
"Every time I come here it's put off. There's no end to it and we're tired
of it," said Whitman. "These men have more rights than we do, we don't have any
rights in this."
Chief Justice Joseph Kennedy offered some sympathy for the Whitmans saying
the justice system, "sometimes forgets that peoples lives are involved."
But no one seemed to ask the obvious question: why was the six page
pre-sentence report only delivered to Downey's lawyer the day of the hearing,
even though the date had been set for weeks?
Was its author negligent or simply over-worked? Where is the
Unfortunately these kinds of delays are more the rule than the exception.
It's not unusual for a case to take months, and more often years to wind its way
through the justice system.
You don't have to look far to find them.
In that same court - 302 -
Thursday morning, MLA Trevor Zinck was supposed to have dates set for his trail
on charges of fraud, theft and breach of trust.
The three-minute hearing ended with no trial date. Instead the lawyers will
hold a pre-trial conference in August and then they'll be back in court in
September to finally set a date for trial, a date lawyers for both sides agree
probably won't be until sometime late in 2013. That means, even if there are no
further delays, Zinck's trial won't start until two and-a-half years after he
In the meantime, Zinck -- who steadfastly maintains his innocence -- walks
around with a cloud over his head. And his alleged victims, Nova Scotia
taxpayers, can only watch as Zinck continues to collect his MLA salary and
contribute to the pension plan, with no idea whether he is guilty or