Pubdate: Sat, 17 Jun 2017
Source: Hamilton Spectator (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Hamilton Spectator
Author: Jim Bronskill
Page: A14


Supreme Court affirms landmark ruling on court delays

OTTAWA - All players in the justice system need to do their part to
target the "root causes" of unnecessary trial delays, the Supreme
Court of Canada said Friday in affirming its landmark ruling on timely

The high court ruled unanimously that a Newfoundland and Labrador man
facing drug and weapon charges should not go to trial under new rules
spelled out last July for determining unjustifiable court delays.

The latest decision comes amid intense public and political debate
over the time limits for trials, including a Senate committee report
this week that expressed concern over accused criminals walking free.

The Supreme Court stood its ground on the need for timeliness in
ruling on the case of James Cody, who was arrested in Conception Bay,
N.L., in January 2010 and charged with drug possession for the
purposes of trafficking and possession of a prohibited weapon.

For various reasons, Cody's trial was not slated to begin until late
January 2015, five years and 21 days after the arrest.

The trial judge stayed the criminal proceedings against Cody in
December 2014 due to the delay, a decision that was overturned by the
Newfoundland and Labrador Appeal Court using transitional provisions
of the new framework set out by the Supreme Court.

In its groundbreaking decision last year, the high court cited a
"culture of complacency" in the justice system and said the old means
of determining whether a person's constitutional right to a timely
trial had been infringed was too complex and unpredictable.

Under the new framework, an unreasonable delay would be presumed
should proceedings - from the criminal charge to conclusion of a trial
- - exceed 18 months in provincial court, or 30 months in superior court.

However, those benchmarks were not set in stone, the court

The Crown could challenge the notion that a delay is unreasonable by
demonstrating "exceptional circumstances," a majority of the court
said in its reasons.

These circumstances could include something unforeseen and beyond the
Crown's control, such as a sudden illness, or a case requiring
extradition of an accused from another country. They might also arise
in "particularly complex" cases that involve disclosure of many
documents, a large number of witnesses or a significant need for
expert evidence.

The Supreme Court also said that as a transitional measure for cases
already in the system, the new framework must be applied "flexibly and

In the Cody case, the high court said there was a net delay of 36.5
months after applicable deductions and concluded that the Crown could
not show the delay was justified. The court therefore said the order
of the trial judge to halt proceedings against Cody must be restored.

The court said trial judges can play an important role, for instance
by denying an adjournment request on the basis it would result in an
unacceptably long delay.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government would take time to
consider the decision that will see Cody avoid a trial.

"But there's no question that it's part of what has become a bit of a
troubling pattern," Trudeau said. "And we need to make sure that we
are working hard to ensure that justice is swift and properly meted
out to anyone who commits crimes."

The Conservatives have accused the Liberals of moving too slowly to
appoint judges to vacant spots.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt