Hamilton

Sentencing for OPP constable delayed after 'loss of confidence' in lawyer

Const. Lauren Cheeseman pleaded guilty to mischief endangering life in January 2019.

Crash that resulted in charges sent a 58-year-old and 17-year-old to hospital

Sentencing for OPP Const. Lauren Cheeseman was delayed Tuesday after a last-minute change in lawyer. (CBC)

Sentencing for a Haldimand County OPP constable who pleaded guilty to mischief endangering life was delayed Tuesday after a last-minute change in lawyer.

Ontario Court of Justice judge Tony Leitch was prepared to give his reasons for judgement and sentence Const. Lauren Cheeseman when her lawyer, Jimmy Lee, requested to be removed from the record, apologizing for the "unexpected development."

Cheeseman was involved in a collision in December 2015 in which a 58-year-old man and a 17-year-old girl were taken to hospital.

The judge explained the law prohibits him from knowing the reason Lee asked to step down, but asked if some situation had arisen that caused a "loss of confidence between him and his client."

Lee agreed that was the case and was removed. Defence lawyer David Butt will take over in his place.

Lawyer needs time to review the case

Butt told the court it's his understanding "everyone acted in good faith," noting "mistakes do happen" and that it's better the change happen sooner rather than later.

He added he'll need time to review the case, speak with his client and weigh his options to determine whether he will elect to strike the plea, make further submissions or "stay the course."

Cheeseman's plea came after a 2017 investigation by Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) into a collision that happened after she started tailing a 29-year-old robbery suspect around 8:30 p.m. on December 2015.

The vehicular pursuit took them to Binbrook where the SIU says police were investigating a fatal collision involving a pedestrian and had closed the road.

That's when vehicle that was being followed by the officer crashed into another vehicle which had been turned around by the road closure, according to the SIU.

A 58-year-old man who was driving and a 17-year-old girl were both taken to hospital after the crash, with the driver suffering a broken collarbone.

The SIU says the robbery suspect was arrested at the scene. 

Keeping the case 'on the rails'

Following the investigation, the OPP officer was charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Instead, she pleaded guilty in January 2019 to a lesser charge of mischief endangering life.

Following the change of lawyer Tuesday, the case scheduled to return to court on April 16.

Crown prosecutor Katie Doherty said it's her hope that an early return date will help ensure the case "stays, to the extent that it can, on the rails."