Supreme Court lays out new framework for ensuring right to timely criminal trial

In potentially groundbreaking decision, Surrey man has dial-a-dope conviction and four-year jail sentence set aside, charges stayed

Dial-a-dope seizure in Surrey.

OTTAWA—The Supreme Court of Canada, citing a “culture of complacency” in the justice system, has set out a new framework for determining whether a criminal trial has been unreasonably delayed.

In a potentially groundbreaking 5-4 decision Friday, the high court said the old means of determining whether a person’s constitutional right to a timely trial had been infringed was too complex and unpredictable.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms says someone charged with an offence has the right to be tried within a reasonable time.

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 a superior court.

However, these benchmarks are not set in stone.

The Supreme Court made the ruling in deciding that the British Columbia drug convictions of Surrey’s Barrett Richard Jordan must be set aside due to an unreasonable delay.

Jordan, then 27, was sentenced to four years in prison in 2013 after being convicted of leading a dial-a-dope operation in Langley. He was the target of an RCMP investigation in 2008, and was arrested in December of that year.

In December 2012, a B.C. Supreme Court judge dismissed an application by Jordan and his girlfriend to have their criminal charges dropped based on their right to a timely trial.

In a dissenting Supreme Court of Canada opinion released on Friday, a minority of the court agreed the charges against Jordan should be stayed, but called the new framework for gauging delays unwarranted and unwise, saying it could lead to thousands of prosecutions being tossed out.

The Crown could challenge the notion that a delay is unreasonable by showing there were “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 said that as a transitional measure for cases already in the system, the new framework must be applied “flexibly and contextually.”

The right to be tried within a reasonable time is central to the administration of Canada’s criminal justice system, the high court said.

“An unreasonable delay denies justice to the accused, victims and their families, and the public as a whole.”

However, unnecessary procedures and adjournments, inefficient practices and inadequate institutional resources have been “accepted as the norm and give rise to ever-increasing delay,” the ruling said.

The old framework failed to address this “culture of complacency,” and participants in the justice system—police, Crown counsel, defence lawyers, courts, provincial legislatures and Parliament—were not encouraged to “take preventative measures to address inefficient practices and resourcing problems,” the court said.

Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

—with files from Black Press

Just Posted

City of Surrey to remove eight dead trees along stretch of road where SUV was hit

Assessment confirms tree that fell was dead; others to be removed ‘early this week’

CCTV cameras help Surrey RCMP arrest two bank robbery suspects

The robberies were in North Surrey on Nov. 7 and Oct. 1

New Surrey Police force ‘swallowing up’ city’s funds, Annis says

City councillor says draft city budget shows new force coming at expense of ‘everything else’ in the city

Guitar ‘swap & sale’ planned at Cloverdale’s Shannon Hall

40-plus vendors are signed up for event on Saturday, Nov. 23

Totems, Mariners win South Fraser volleyball titles

South Surrey teams now advance to provincial high school championships in Langley

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

Midget no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

Duncan man gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty trial

Joe also gets lifetime ban on owning animals

B.C. pushes for greater industry ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

B.C. woman ordered to return dog to ex-boyfriend for $2,000

After the two broke up, documents state, they agree to share custody of the dog, named Harlen

Most Read

l -->