North

Dozens of criminal charges dismissed in Hay River after prosecutor misses flight

A judge in Hay River, N.W.T., dismissed dozens of criminal charges this week because a Crown prosecutor missed her flight from Yellowknife. 

'I’ve never seen a situation like this before,' defence lawyer says

Justice Donovan Molloy dismissed 53 charges against 14 people 'for want of prosecution.' (Emily Blake/CBC)

A judge in Hay River, N.W.T., dismissed dozens of charges this week because a Crown prosecutor missed her flight. 

Justice Donovan Molloy could have allowed the prosecutor to attend territorial court over the phone, but instead dismissed most of Monday's docket "for want of prosecution." 

Overall, the court dismissed 53 charges against 14 people on the docket, which included cases of impaired driving, assault and breach of a restraining order. 

Molloy issued arrest warrants for other cases on the docket, and extended two cases to a later date. 

Defence lawyer Michael Hansen watched the whole thing take place in court on Monday, and said he was shocked by the judge's decision. 

"I've been up here since 1993, with a little bit of time off, and I can say I've never seen a situation like this," Hansen told CBC. 

"It's an entirely unique situation that I don't know if it will ever be repeated in my career." 

'I had to be on that flight, and I wasn't' 

Crown prosecutor Mina Connelly says she mismanaged her time Monday morning, missing the mandatory 45-minute cut-off time for her half-hour flight from Yellowknife to Hay River. 

She says she got there just a few minutes too late. 

"I had to be on that flight, and I wasn't," she told CBC. 

"We're just trying to find a way to deal with this situation now." 

Connelly immediately returned to her office and emailed the court registry to let them know she would have to appear by phone. She found out a few minutes later that Justice Molloy denied her request — but she's not sure why. 

"I was not in direct contact with the judge and so I was not made aware of the reason why exactly," said Connelly. 

Hansen said Connelly called him later that day to apologize. 

Possible change in policy required: defence lawyer

Hansen said it's not unique for a Crown lawyer to miss a flight to Hay River. 

He said it happened at least twice in October. In those cases, the prosecution joined the court over the phone. 

In another case earlier this month, Hansen said a defence lawyer and a court interpreter were delayed in getting to court — again due to flight delays. 

Hansen said the Crown should look into what's going wrong. 

"On the face of it, it requires some explanation and perhaps some change in policy from the Crown's office," Hansen said. 

Cases could come back before the court 

Even though many of Monday's cases were dismissed, Hansen said they could come back before the court if the Crown decides to appeal Justice Molloy's decision. 

Connelly said the Crown is reviewing the files to figure out its next course of action. 

The Crown has up to 60 days to appeal Molloy's decision. 

Corrections

  • In an earlier version of this story, Hansen said a prosecutor was delayed in getting to court earlier this month. In fact, a defence lawyer and a court interpreter were delayed.
    Nov 12, 2020 1:58 PM CT

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