Thrown out Ontario court cases: can we at least keep track?

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“I’m more angry at the system than at these guys.”

This quotation is from a unnamed alleged gang-rape victim and Ontario resident whose case was thrown out of court for “unreasonable” delays.

Now, in our wonderful justice system, these men are held innocent until proven guilty, and their crimes remain alleged. Unfortunately, it seems like it is going to stay that way, at least until further notice.

The case involves a Milton resident and mother accusing three former neighbours of sexually assaulting her in the summer of 2009. Her trial was eventually set to take place this October, but exceeded a guideline-stated maximum amount of 18 months. It exceed it by less than four weeks.

This case is just one notable and recent one of hundreds of thousands of cases that have been thrown out over the last 23 years.

This precedent was set in 1990, due to the ruling of the Askov v R case. Askov and the other appellants had been charged seven years prior for conspiracy to commit extortion and related offences and had their trial date set two years later in 1985.

When they finally saw a judge in 1986, the appellants moved for a stay of proceedings on the grounds of unreasonable delay, which the judge granted due to uncorrected institutional problems. The excessive delay breached the accused rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 11(b) “to be tried within a reasonable amount of time”.

There are a few take aways from this worth noting.

The first is that a precedent set 23 years ago over allegations of extortion are now applying to allegations of rape. Primarily, this is due to the simple principle that all people, regardless of what they are accused of are innocent. But the issue with this is strongly related to the next.

A single judge made the decision as to what a reasonable amount of time is. Regardless of anyone’s qualifications or strength of character or whatever else qualifies someone to be a judge, could anyone have the right to define something so vague? Something that would ultimately cause massive debilitating congestion in our court system?

Lastly, and most alarmingly: the reason for granting the stay. Not necessarily that the accused’s right were violated, but that they were violated by a delay caused by “longstanding, uncorrected institutional problems”.

Here we are, 23 years later: I think we need a more effective phrase than “longstanding”.  How about “ever-lasting”?The fact that this was a legally recognized issues that long ago makes it very hard to see another side to this.

Aside from the unending negligence towards delays, the court system here in Ontario also fails to take note of why cases are thrown out.

In 2011-2012,  of about 150,000 adult criminal court decisions, 64,000 were dropped. Whether or not this is due to excessive delay, limited judicial resources, inefficient evidence or otherwise, no one really knows.

At the moment, the Ontario court systems doesn’t track the reasons for throw out cases. Instead they just seem to keep a running tally of how many made it to the judge and how many were thrown out.

If issues considered “longstanding” are now so old they can vote, its about time something for to change. If a woman is angrier with the system than with the men she alleges raped her, what more incentive do you really need?

-Tim Stacey

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