'I wanted a conviction': Father says court delays denied his toddler justice
Warning: This conversation includes graphic details of an alleged sexual assault.
"We were all in the courtroom for the decision and that is probably one of the most frustrating situations I've ever been in."
Those are the words of an Ottawa father The Current refers to as James — to protect the identity of his daughter, his real name cannot be revealed.
In January, charges were stayed against the teenage boy accused of sexually assaulting James's three-year-old daughter at the accused mother's home daycare.
The father says that two years ago, after a long Easter weekend, his daughter said she didn't want to go back to daycare.
"She said, 'I don't want to go' and we found that unusual," James tells The Current's guest host Kelly Crowe.
The young girl went on to describe some very troubling things that had happened.
"It was obvious that there was something disturbing going on in that house and that there was no way we were taking her back there."
The girl's parents immediately called the police to report what happened, but charges in the case were stayed 21 months after the teenager was first arrested.
The judge decided in this case the boy's constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated.
James says the court delays were due, in part, to technical difficulties. So when he learned the charges were going to be stayed he says he was furious.
"I wanted a conviction obviously," he tells Crowe.
"It seems like a ridiculous reason for a delay like that to contribute to a stayed charge of that severity."
In the case of James's daughter, charges of sexual assault were stayed due to court delays but the same teenager has been found guilty of indecent exposure involving another three-year-old child that attended the same daycare. Those charges occurred later.
'Jordan decision' targets chronic delays in court
Lawyers across the country are warning that thousands of serious charges are at risk of being tossed out of the courts because of delays.
They say pressure in the system has increased in the wake of a the so-called "Jordan decision" issued last summer by the Supreme Court — which sets out strict deadlines: Less serious offences must now be wrapped up within 18 months and more serious charges, including murder, have a 30-month deadline.
Since that decision came down charges have been stayed in many jurisdictions. People accused with everything from impaired driving and drug possession to aggravated sexual assault and murder have had their charges stayed.
- Ottawa judge stays 1st-degree murder charge over trial delay
- Sex assault cases in Alberta collapse due to excessive delays
- Charges in Gatineau triple killing could be stayed over trial delay
Senator George Baker is deputy chair of a Senate committee studying the issue of court delays. The committee has gone across the country and heard from lawyers, judges and academics.
He says Canadians should be alarmed because so many charges could be stayed in coming months, unless changes are made to the system.
"We have to establish rules in our courts in Canada so that that will not take place. And that is the big problem facing us today," Baker tells Crowe.
Baker is calling for more efficiency in the system and he says more judges should be appointed. He also says there is a need to address a culture of complacency in the system.
"They've got to turn their minds to this on an urgent basis because if public confidence in our judicial system is lost then we are nowhere," says Baker.
Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.
This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson and Winnipeg network producer Suzanne Dufresne.