B.C. men to return to court after sheriff shortage prompted charge dismissals

Judges in separate cases had slammed the government for not hiring enough sheriffs

Two Victoria men whose criminal charges were dropped last year because of a lack of available sheriffs have been ordered back to court.

Michael John Dubensky and Richard Anthony D’Allesandro were accused in separate cases on various drug trafficking and weapons offences, but Crown was allowed to protest the dismissal of charges in a single appeal because they involve the same issues and location.

According to court documents, D’Allesandro was scheduled for a half-day trial in 2017 on charges of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking in an alleged incident three years earlier. But a sheriff was not available.

“Crown is ready to go. Defence is ready to go. The court is ready to go,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Johnston said at the time. “Mr. D’Allesandro is in custody in this building, but he is not able to attend because there are no sheriffs to bring him to court.

“That is completely unacceptable. I am not prepared to conduct this trial in Mr. D’Allesandro’s absence. He has a right to be here and he should be here.”

Johnston stayed the proceedings, essentially dropping the charges and blaming a lack of “provincial will” to provide proper resources.

READ MORE: NDP hope to nix court delays with $15 million cash influx

READ MORE: Court delays one of several issues tackled by feds in tabled bill

Dubenksy, meanwhile, was charged with possession of heroin for the purpose of trafficking, as well as possession of bear spray, in relation to a 2015 incident.

He was to remain in custody during his three-day trial in 2017. But court documents say no sheriffs were available to sit in the courtroom, nor stay with him while he is transported to and from the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre.

“It is the responsibility of the state, that is the province, to adequately staff courthouses, and part of that responsibility of staffing includes making sure there are sheriffs available so that trials can run as they are meant to and must run,” B.c. Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Dorgan said at the time.

“Sheriffs are pivotal to the operation of a trial and particularly so in regard to an in-custody trial in the criminal field.”

In his decision Tuesday, B.C. Appeal Court Justice David Frankel sided with Crown in its appeal.

“While the judges were right to be concerned — and, it would appear, frustrated — over the unavailability of sheriffs and the effect a lack of sufficient sheriffs can have on the Supreme Court’s ability to carry out its functions,” Frankel wrote, “how they chose to address that problem in dealing with the cases before them was both procedurally inappropriate and extreme.”

He and the other two appeal judges set aside the stays of proceedings for both men and remitted the matters for trial.

A lack of sheriffs has long caused delays in the B.C. justice system.

Such shortages let to six courtroom delays and eight closures between fall 2016 and spring 2017, according to the province. In March 2017, the under-staffing in provincial court in Victoria got so stark a Kamloops deputy sheriff was flown in to lend a hand.

The NDP government pledged $15 million in its February budget to hire more staff, while the federal government tabled a new bill last month aimed at reforming many problems of the justice system, including court delays.

Just Posted

Ferry connecting Port Hardy and Bella Coola expected to set sail this summer

Its first in-service route will sail in central coast waters on May 18, 2019.

BC Parks Student Ranger Program accepting applications for 2019 season

12 crews of four student rangers will work in regions throughout the province including Bella Coola.

Over $650,00 given to rural communities thanks to Rural Dividends

Five communities, including Williams Lake, are receiving $10,000 for project grants

Pregnant Cariboo firefighter tries to save own house from blaze

Julia Flinton and Anthony Sellars both worked on the 2017 wildfires

Road report for Highway 20

Fog patches and slippery sections; Drive BC

REPLAY: B.C’s best videos this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

World economy forecast to slow in 2019 amid trade tensions

For Canada, the IMF’s estimate for growth in 2019 was 1.9 per cent, down from expected global growth of 3.5 per cent

2-for-1: Total lunar eclipse comes with supermoon bonus

On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America

‘Gotti’ leads Razzie nominations, Trump up for worst actor

The nominations were announced on Monday, Jan. 21 with some movies earning up to six nominations

Patriots make 3rd straight Super Bowl, beat Chiefs 37-31 in OT

New England will meet L.A. Rams in NFL title game

Pettersson returns to lead Canucks to 3-2 win over Red Wings

Vancouver’s super rookie has 2 points in first game back after knee injury

Skaters stranded in Saint John, NB, amid storm on last day of championships

More than half of the flights out of the city’s airport were cancelled due to the weather

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi was facing charges related to alleged sexual assault, criminal harassment, assault and forcible confinement of a woman

12 poisoned eagles found on Vancouver Island

Improper disposal of euthanized animal suspected

Most Read