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Worrying trend

Having court cases prolonged to a point where it is no longer deemed fair to move forward with them seems to be happening more and more in this province.

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Recently, two matters — charges stemming from a drug bust and child luring charges — have been put on hold, and could be thrown out this month if not appealed. The legal term is to “stay” the charges.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision on R. v. Jordan argues that an accused person has a right to be tried within a reasonable time — that trials should be heard within 30 months, or 18 months if there is no preliminary inquiry.

With an overloaded provincial court slowing the wheels of justice, the effects of having the right to a timely trial are already being felt.

Within the last two weeks, four men charged in a drug bust nearly three years ago had their charges stayed because it took too long to prosecute them.
The men were arrested in March 2014 and charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, trafficking in a controlled drug or substance, laundering the proceeds of crime and possession of property obtained by crime.
The investigation resulted in the seizure of five pounds of marijuana and Canadian currency valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A former Hopedale RCMP officer is no longer facing child luring charges after his case was stayed.
Ian Kaulback was arrested for allegedly luring a child Feb. 8, 2013, and again on July 9, 2014, 17 months after the investigation began.
Judge John Joy, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay provincial court, ruled that Kaulback's Charter rights had been violated since it took an unreasonable amount of time to go to trial.
The total amount of time between his arrest and the scheduled trial was 33 months, but the calling of evidence and initial counsel submissions increased that time to 41 months — which Joy called a better estimate of the time it would have taken to conclude a trial.
Of course, not every request for a stay is granted. In January, a Corner Brook judge denied a stay in attempted murder charges.
The incident occurred in 2010, with the accused being arrested in 2012.
But it’s clear the Jordan decision is having serious ramifications in this province and the onus to deal with this falls on the provincial government.
In a time of fiscal constraint, and in a province that has had to contemplate closing courts, finding the right approach will be difficult.
But a more efficient provincial court system is needed, because if nothing changes, justice delayed becomes justice denied.

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