Mother convicted in son's strep death won't be sentenced if judge agrees trial took too long

Even though Tamara Lovett has been convicted in the strep-death of her seven-year-old son, she should not be sentenced because her right to a timely trial were violated, her lawyer argued in court Tuesday.

Tamara Lovett used herbal remedies instead of seeing doctor before Ryan died of infection

Tamara Lovett's son Ryan, 7, died of a strep infection in 2013. Lovett never took the boy to a doctor. (Facebook)

Even though Tamara Lovett has been convicted in the strep-death of her seven-year-old son, she should not be sentenced because her constitutional right to a timely trial was violated, her lawyer argued in court Tuesday.

Ryan Lovett died in 2013. His mother was found guilty in January of criminal negligence causing death.

Lovett's lawyer, Alain Hepner, says despite the conviction, a stay of proceedings is appropriate given two recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions that put hard timelines on what is considered unreasonable delay. 

The bedridden boy — who was never taken to a doctor — deteriorated in his mother's apartment for 10 days before his death from a Group A strep infection. At the trial, Lovett, 48, testified she treated Ryan for what she believed to be a cold or flu with holistic remedies like dandelion tea and oil of oregano.

On March 2, 2013, Lovett called 911 after finding Ryan on the floor outside the bathroom in their apartment. He was dead by the time paramedics arrived.

Court of Queen's Bench Kristine Eidsvik heard the "Jordan application" Tuesday, with prosecutor Jonathan Hak and Hepner making arguments on whether this case violated Lovett's right to a timely trial.

Court delays frustrating

Hepner says the court should consider the delay at 38 months, but prosecutor Jonathan Hak says six of those months are attributable to the defence. 

"In the Crown's submission it could not be clearer that we are dealing with 32 months," said Hak.

The Supreme Court's Jordan decision allows for some flexibility based on transitional cases where charges were laid before the top court's decision was released in 2016. Hak argued this should fall under that category.

If Eidsvik grants the stay of proceedings, the case would end and Lovett would not be sentenced.

The judge expressed frustration with court delays across Canada, especially in Alberta.

"What's up in Canada, that this issue comes up over and over, that we can't seem to have reasonably timed trials in Canada?" Eidsvik asked. "Alberta is probably one of the worst provinces in terms of timing."

The Supreme Court of Canada's Jordan decision last year set out a framework for determining whether a criminal trial has been unreasonably delayed to the point where it has violated an accused's charter rights.

In response to Eidsvik's comments, Hak suggested there's not much that can be done without more resources.

"We suffer under resource issues," he said. "There's not a blessed thing the Crown can do about that, there's not a blessed thing the court can do about that."

"We don't influence resources; we work with what we're given."

Lovett is 'grief stricken'

The high court imposed hard timelines of 30 months for a case to make its way through superior courts and 18 months for provincial courts.

Lovett was charged in November 2013 and didn't go to trial until November 2016. It will be up to the judge to determine whom the delay is attributable to.

At a sentencing hearing last month, Hak argued Lovett should spend four to five years in prison while Hepner proposed one year in jail and one year probation.

A pre-sentence psychiatric report found Lovett is "grief stricken for failing her son." She made a tearful statement last month following sentencing arguments, denouncing her former beliefs and expressing deep regret for her choices. 

Eidsvik will deliver a sentence only if the Jordan application is unsuccessful.

The parties will be back in court Nov. 17 for a decision.