Murder, sex assault cases among those tossed due to delays in Canadian courts
Applications for stays have increased since last year's Supreme Court ruling on timely trials
The Supreme Court of Canada on Friday in a case involving a Newfoundland man accused of drug offences has upheld the principles of a ruling from last year regarding reasonable timelines for criminal cases.
That earlier Supreme Court decision, R v. Jordan, imposed a period of 18 months for lower court cases to be finished, and 30 months for a Superior Court case to be finished. The court did allow that there should be a transitional period for cases already in the system
While it's affected hundreds of cases, one law school study suggested that applications for stays have increased but not skyrocketed in the first months since last year's ruling. As well, many of the stays have been for charges like impaired driving.
Judges aren't pushovers, either: An Alberta justice ruled that while three young men found guilty in the beating death of a Calgary teen had their cases delayed by slightly more than 30 months, it was an acceptable exception because the case was already in the system during the transitional period before the Supreme Court ruling.
As well, the Toronto Star recently reported on an alleged fraudster whose attempt at a stay seven years on failed because he "skillfully manipulated" the system for delays.
Still, there are legitimate concerns involving backlogs and a shortage of judges, among other issues.
Here's a look at some stays in Canada involving the most serious of allegations, some of which are being appealed.
Alberta has seen dozens of Jordan applications. Alberta Justice appealed a stay on the eve of trial last November involving charges against Lance Matthew Regan, accused of the 2011 prison stabbing death of fellow inmate Mason Tex Montgrand. The justice granted the stay despite the defence having contributed to about 40 per cent of a five-year delay.
CBC News in Edmonton has detailed a number of sexual assault cases affected by the Jordan ruling, including two stayed in October 2016, one in Fort McMurray and the other in Grand Prairie.
In February, the Edmonton Crown stayed 15 cases due to a "lack of resources," including two for assaulting a peace officer.
While the defendant in the landmark Jordan case was from Nova Scotia, the drug charges that were stayed related to alleged crimes committed in B.C.
B.C. has been affected less so far by delays than other sizable Canadian provinces, but some lawyers are trying. Peter Beckett's lawyers, for example, are seeking a stay for the former New Zealand politician who has been in custody for seven years and faces an August first-degree murder trial. A mistrial was declared last year after jurors couldn't agree whether Beckett drowned his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett, in 2010.
A recent attempt by two Hells Angels to have their drug conspiracy case dropped due to a five-year delay was rejected in January; the B.C. judge cited the complexity of the undercover investigation in his reasoning.
The New Brunswick Court of Appeal in a late 2016 decision agreed to stay six charges faced by a man referred to only as D.M.S.
The man had been charged in 2010 with sexual assault, two counts of assault with a weapon, incest, sexual interference and assault in connection with alleged incidents from a six-year span that began in 1990. His trial was twice interrupted, including a delay of a year in one instance.
A Nova Scotia judge stayed a charge of sexual assault against Behrang Foroughi-Mobarakeh in April, involving an alleged incident at his home in March 2014.
The judge cited unnecessary delays by RCMP in disclosing evidence to the defence. The former St. Francis Xavier University lecturer has continually asserted his innocence.
There have been 46 cases tossed out due to court delays in Ontario from July 9 to Dec. 31, 2016, according to statistics obtained through a freedom of information request.
Adam Picard, former veteran who served in Afghanistan, was charged in December 2012 with first-degree murder in the Ottawa area of an acquaintance, Fouad Nayel. He remained in custody until November 2016, when on the eve of jury selection an Ontario Superior Court Justice agreed to a defence request to stay the charges.
The ruling is being appealed, and the parents of the slain man this week told CBC News the process has been "hell."
Meanwhile, an Ottawa judge stayed some charges involving a teenager who allegedly sexual assaulted a toddler at his mother's daycare due to unreasonable delays.
Quebec has seen three cases involving homicides stayed, although the accused aren't expected to be walking Canadian streets anytime soon.
Van Son Nguyen, 52, was charged with second-degree murder in January 2013, accused of killing his victim with a machete. Last month the charge was stayed. On June 2, immigration officials accompanied Nguyen as he was deported to the United Kingdom, where he lived before he outstayed a six-month visa in Canada.
Sivaloganathan Thanabalasingham, 31, is in the process of being deported to Sri Lanka. He came to Canada as a refugee and was charged with second-degree in the August 2012 death of his wife, Anuja Baskaran. The murder charge was stayed in April, but previous assault charges involving Baskaran allowed the Canada Border Services Agency deport Thanabalasingham.
Ryan Wolfson of Montreal will not stand trial in September as scheduled for first-degree murder in the 2012 killing of Pierre-Paul Fortier after a stay was granted. Wolfson is already serving a life sentence, handed down last year for the murder of Frédérick Murdock, who was also killed in 2012.
Delays have been worrying in Quebec where a judge expressed concern about a three-month delay in the the case of Alexandre Bissonnette, who is accused of killing six at a mosque in January.
And the Montreal Gazette reported recently the defence might invoke the Jordan ruling in the case of the multi-million dollar bribery scheme that has embroiled SNC-Lavalin and McGill University Health Centre. Former CEO of SNC-Lavalin Pierre Duhaime was charged in late 2012 and has yet to face trial, but prosecutors may be able to argue the delay is reasonable, given the complexity of the case.
McGill University Health Centre CEO Arthur Porter died before he could be extradited to stand trial.