In May, 2004, sexual assault charges against Derrick Burke were stayed in Ontario Court because the judge agreed with the defendants lawyers that the accused had not received a fair and speedy trial. Under Canada’s Charter of Rights, an accused has the right to a speedy trial. Many judges are under the agreement that 10 months should be the benchmark, although certain factors may allow this to be raised or lowered.
On June 17, 1996, a man charged with possession of heroine had his charges stayed in Toronto after waiting a little more than two and a half years to go to trial. In 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the ruling of the Ontario Court of Appeals that two men could not be retried on second degree murder charges after the Crown took 22 months to get them to their second trial. They were released.
In many cases, precedent is all that is needed for a defense attorney to find a way to extract their clients from the hands of justice. One has to wonder what is going to become of Chuck Guite, and Jean Brault. Will the judge presiding over that case cite the amount of time that it has taken to bring these alleged thieves to court? The trial, which is now scheduled to commence in May, 2006, will be two years from the time that they were both charged with the offenses arising out of the sponsorship scandal. While the press has covered almost every angle regarding a tainted jury pool to a delay in the release of the Gomery Report, no one has discussed the delays that are adding up in this fiasco.
While both sides have agreed to the latest delay, this will make it harder for the defense to use this argument. That notwithstanding, we have seen some pretty brutal judgments come down from Canadian judges, and common sense is not always a major factor in their decisions. Barring any more delays, I would think that this case is already in jeopardy. Any further attempts to postpone this trial will certainly tip the scales in favour of the defendants.
Perhaps that was the plan all along.