A B.C. judge has tossed an impaired driving case because it too long – 19.5 months – to get the case to trial.

Kamloops Judge Leonard Marchand concluded the delay unfairly prejudiced the Charter rights of the accused, Agatha Jarzebiak, who claimed she suffered negative effects to her health, financial hardship, an inability to plan for the future, an inability to care for or see her adult disabled daughter and an impaired ability to make full answer and defence.

The alleged offence date was April 25, 2013 and the charge was laid on May 29, 2013. The trial didn’t begin until Sept. 23, 2014.

The trial didn’t conclude because of a busy court schedule and the case had to be adjourned until Jan. 13, 2015, when Jarzebiak brought her application for a judicial stay of proceedings because of unreasonable trial delay.

Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms says an accused person has the right to be tried within a reasonable period of time — the Supreme Court of Canada has defined a 12-month delay as reasonable.

The judge hearing the impaired driving case had to consider who was responsible for the delay but found it was not caused by the actions of the accused.

“There is no hint of an intention on Ms. Jarzebiak’s part to delay the proceedings,” the judge noted. “In fact, there is every indication that she wanted her case to proceed with all haste.”

Instead, the judge concluded the main cause for the delay was institutional because of trial scheduling problems of the busy court in Clearwater, located 124 km north of Kamloops.

The judge added “it is clear to me that the trial could have been rescheduled much sooner if it were being tried in a location with greater institutional resources such as Kamloops.”

The judge concluded that “the prejudice to Ms. Jarzebiak outweighs society’s interest in having her tried on the merits. The overall delay, while explainable, has had an extremely prejudicial impact on Ms. Jarzebiak. I find the delay to have breached Ms. Jarzebiak’s right under s. 11(b) of the Charter to be tried within a reasonable time.”

The shortage of judges to hear cases, resulting in a judicial stay because of unreasonable delay, has been a vexing problem for years for the court and the government.

There are about 150 provincial court judges working in more than 80 locations throughout the province who hear more than 225,000 cases a year.

The government announced this week two new appointments to the court: Judge Laura Bakan will be sworn in April 2 and assigned to Robson Square in Vancouver, and Judge Edna Ritchie was sworn in March 20 and was assigned to Abbotsford.

In February, the government appointed Judge Shannon Keyes to Prince George and Judge Steven Point to Abbotsford. Point had retired from the bench in 2007, when he was appointed as B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor, a position he held until 2012.

The B.C. government says the total cost to support one provincial court judge is about $1.4 million a year, including the judge’s salary of $234,600 and costs for court administration staff, sheriffs, prosecution services and judicial support.

The full judgment resulting in the stay of proceedings is online here.

Source: Metro News


Last updated on: 2015-03-28 | Link to this post