Ottawa

Toss out Ottawa teen's lengthy case over fake 911 calls, lawyer to argue

Another defence lawyer is readying his arguments to try and have a teenage swatter's case involving fake 911 calls across North America thrown out for taking too long and violating his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Ontario's Attorney General to announce how many new judges, court staff coming to capital to tackle delays

A Barrhaven teenager's case has dragged on for more than 30 months since the time of his arrest, says his lawyer. (Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

Another defence lawyer is readying his arguments to try and have an Ottawa teenager's swatting case thrown out for taking too long.

The Barrhaven teen was arrested in 2014 when he was 16 years old and still hasn't received a decision on his case. The accused allegedly called in at least 30 fake emergencies to police forces across Canada and the United States, sometimes requiring a SWAT team response.

Now 18, the accused will have waited more than 30 months for a decision in his case, said his lawyer Joshua Clarke. 

"It's still not done," said Clarke.

It's the latest legal challenge, using what's known as the "Jordan decision" to argue that charges should withdrawn over delays that violate their client's constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Under the new timelines set out in the decision, Superior Court cases have up to 30 months to be completed, while provincial court trials should be completed within 18 months of charges being laid.

Attorney General announcing new hires

To deal with the backlog of cases, Ontario's Attorney General Yasir Naqvi promised in December he would appoint 13 new provincial judges, hire 32 more assistant Crown attorneys, 16 duty counsel and 26 court staff across Ontario.

Later today in Ottawa, Naqvi is scheduled to announce how many of those new judges and other resources are coming to the capital. 

Ontario's Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced plans in December to hire more judges, Crown attorneys, duty counsel and court staff to try to shorten the time it takes for criminal cases to get to trial. (Chris Young/Canadian Press )

The ‎Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa said it's a "significant" investment that shows the province is expecting to see more lawyers arguing trials are taking too long.

"One of the signs of the times is that we've seen that additional judges are being appointed," said the association's president Anne London-Weinstein. "Because we are seeing that response I think it's safe to say that they're anticipating that there are going to be a number of Jordan applications brought as people look at their cases and say, hey, they are over the timeline here...."

Charges dropped in 3 Ottawa cases 

So far, Ottawa judges have stayed or withdrawn charges in two cases due to court delays, including setting free a man accused of murder. 

In 2012, Adam Picard was charged with murder in the shooting death of 28-year-old Fouad Nayel. A judge found that Picard's nearly four-year wait for a trial was a violation of the Supreme Court's new limit on unreasonable delays. Nayel's family and others protested outside the courthouse, saying the system failed them. 
Supporters of Nayel family hold placards during a protest outside the Ottawa courthouse on Nov. 17, 2016, days after an Ottawa judge stayed a first-degree murder charge against Adam Picard. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Another Ottawa judge stayed the charges this month against a 15-year-old boy accused of sexual offences involving a three-year-old at his mother's in-home daycare.

Ontario Crown Attorney's Association estimates 6,000 criminal cases could see charges stayed or withdrawn. The Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa doesn't know how many of those thousands of cases may be affected in the capital. 

Some lawyers have launched legal challenges that have not been heard yet in court, including the case of Sam Tsega. He was convicted of manslaughter in the 2010 shooting death of 19-year-old Michael Swan.

Tsega was convicted more than six years after Swan's death — but he has not yet been sentenced.

Delay in teen fake 911 call case

In the case of the 18-year-old teen accused of calling in fake emergencies, his lawyer blames the delay on the Crown's decision to prosecute dozens of charges across the country in Calgary, Milton, Laval and some American states like California.

"That in my opinion as the primary reason it took so long," said Clarke. "Their decision to have a prosecution that insisted on proving all of these incidents compounded the amount of evidence required, the number of witnesses that needed to be called and preparation required to be ready for all that. That in my opinion is the primary reason it took so long."

The trial also ran longer than the Crown anticipated, he added. Over that time period, the teen wasn't able to do volunteer work or go places with Internet connections. Both conditions have since been lifted.

Clarke expects to argue his client's constitutional rights have been violated during the next court appearance on Feb. 14.

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