Published On: Aug 21,2017
August 20, 2017
The conduct of the defence in assessing the delay at trial under Section 11(b) of the Charter; and whether the calculation of the delay is the period between charge and verdict or between charge and sentence. By J.S. Patel, Barrister, 403-585-1960 or 1-888-695-2211
In our previous Blog on R. v. Jordan, and R. v. Cody, we outlined the general legal test that the Courts use to determine whether a delay is considered unreasonable and to stay all charges against an accused person. Two (2) presumptive ceilings were set: (a) eighteen (18) months of delay in matters in the Provincial Court; and (b) thirty (30) months for charges in the Superior Courts in Canada. The issue of defence delay was expounded upon more recently in Regina v. Cody 2017 SCC 31; and it is described in our blow summarizing the judgement. The conduct of the defence and Counsel is a relevant factor in determining whether there was an unreasonable delay that would attract a stay of proceedings under Section 24(2) of the Charter.
For instance, in Regina v. Mallozzi, 2017 ONCA 644, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the Trial Court’s Assessment of the alleged defence delay, in dismissing the accused’s application for a stay of proceedings on the basis of unreasonable delay under s.11(b) of the Charter. In that case, the accused was convicted of two (2) counts of producing marijuana. There was a preliminary inquiry; and two (2) mistrials, which spanned over five (5) years from the date he was charged. The court held that the “net-delay” was under the thirty (30) month ceiling created by Jordan; and importantly, that the defence waived or caused thirty-seven (37) of the total sixty (60) months of delay. What is more, many dates had been offered to try to accommodate the schedule of defence counsel while the Crown and court were able to proceed earlier, and there was an express waiver of a further period.
In the obiter dictum of the judgement, the Ontario Court of Appeal further opined that even if the total ‘net-delay’ had surpassed the thirty (30) month ceiling as posited in R. v. Jordan (SCC), the resulting delay would have been justifiable given the two (2) mistrials, which the Court would have found fell within the rubric of term: ‘exceptional delay.’ This is because, in the Court’s view, the first (1st) mistrial came to fruition as a result of a defence objection concerning the empanelment of the 12th juror under Section 642 of the Criminal Code of Canada (the “Code”). Defence counsel’s assertion that this delay was due to the summoning of too few potential jurors was rejected. The Court of Appeal found that the defence position on this issue had been “frivolous.” What is more, the second mistrial was agreed to by the Crown and the defence on the basis that the five of the jurors on the current panel had been on the previous panel. The Court took the view that the this second mistrial had been unnecessary; and that these particular events were unforeseeable. Thus, they were not a “failure of the system” as advocated by the accused person at appeal. Finally, the Court of Appeal also stated the transitional provision applied to the delay, which was incurred prior to the decision in Jordan, above.
What is interesting, however, is that the Ontario Court of Appeal, explicitly declined to decide whether the period of delay for s.11(b) purposes is the period between charge and verdict or between charge and sentence. Accordingly, this issue remains arguably open for consideration should the issue arise against in the future.
The issues involved in Charter applications under Section 11(b) involve complicated considerations and a thorough assessment of the applicable legal principles. While it is clearly impossible to predict the outcome of proceedings and manner in which trials will unfold, the Mallozzi case clearly demonstrates the importance of considering the manner of defence delay and the strategic steps that need to be taken at trial. Experienced lawyers ought to be consulted in making such an application.
Contact our offices at 403-585-1960 or 1-888-695-2211 for an initial consultation.