Pubdate: Sat, 09 Jan 2016
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 The London Free Press
Author: Jane Sims
Page: A5



A London judge had made it perfectly clear: Be in court on time or
face the consequences.

Ontario Court Justice Thomas McKay had grown weary of the delays in a
routine drug trafficking trial - a case that had been set for one day,
but had stretched out over several dates because of unavailable
witnesses and scheduling issues.

He sent a message to the federal drug prosecutor who had headed off to
a sentencing hearing in a higher court without checking in with him
first that she'd better be in his courtroom by 10:15 a.m.

At 10:16 a.m., when she hadn't shown up, he stayed Robert Young's

Ontario's highest court said this week it sympathized with McKay's
frustrations - the federal Crown shouldn't have double-booked herself,
even for a last minute guilty plea that needed to be finished to get
an addict into rehab. But a new trial had to be ordered.

The case highlights the organized chaos of criminal court scheduling
where often there are competing demands for time.

Young, 49, is facing charges of marijuana trafficking and possession
of a stolen laptop from his arrest on Nov. 8, 2012, at Victoria Park
which London police had staked for drug sales. The trial's timing
problems began from the get-go.

The first day of Young's trial was Sept. 3, 2014. The federal Crown
told McKay that two days were needed - a surprise to the judge who had
one day set to hear the evidence. The Crown hadn't finished her case
and it was adjourned to be finished months later on Feb. 10, 2015.
There were more problems on Day 2. The Crown told the judge that an
expert witness was ill and wouldn't be available until the next day.
McKay heard from three other Crown witnesses, all of whom finished
their testimonies before the lunch break. The case was adjourned to
Feb. 11, 2015 at 10 a.m. That morning, Young and his lawyer had to be
paged from the hallway. Then McKay was told the federal prosecutor
would be late because she had gone to the Superior Court of Justice on
the upper floors of the London courthouse for another matter that had
come up unexpectedly - someone wanted to plead guilty and needed to
act quickly to be admitted into a treatment program.

One of her assisting colleagues asked on her behalf that the Young
trial start at 10:30 a.m. McKay wasn't happy and said that the
prosecutor should have set the Young trial continuation as her
priority because it was scheduled before the Superior Court matter.
Even though it was an urgent matter "that doesn't mean that she can
simply ignore her obligation here," McKay said. He told the Crown's
colleague that court would begin at 10:15 a.m. When court started
again at 10:15 a.m., Young and his lawyer were ready, but no one was
there for the Crown.

McKay ordered a judicial stay of the charges, setting aside the trial,
and adjourned the court. The assisting Crown arrived one minute later.
The prosecutor in charge of the file showed up at 10:22 a.m. The
appeals court judicial panel said lawyers must not overbook their
schedules and, for efficient trial scheduling, they can't make any
other commitments that would make it impossible to appear on their
previously scheduled matters.

"The trial judge quite properly considered that the trial Crown's
first obligation was to ensure the trial continued as scheduled," the
court said.

"Faced with the conflict, she should have arranged to have another
Crown counsel deal with one matter or the other."

Still, the appeals court said, the judge "could express his
displeasure" but was wrong to stay the trial. "There was no prejudice
to the respondent's right to a fair trial and the continuation of the
trial after the Crown's unexcused absence would not have diminished
the integrity of the justice system," the court said.

The trial's next date has yet to be scheduled.
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