A British Columbia judge has stayed assault charges against three Mounties accused of pepper spraying a man in custody, saying lengthy delays in getting the cases to trial violated their charter rights.
A written ruling says RCMP Cpl. Michelle Lebrun and constables Mick White and Scott Jones were on duty at the Oceanside detachment in Parksville when the alleged incident occurred on June 10, 2013.
Provincial court Judge Ronald Lamperson said that after multiple delays, separate trials for Lebrun and White are scheduled to start next month, and the trial for Jones is set for the fall, but 39 months and 14 days will have lapsed to the expected end of proceedings for two of the officers.
He said that would exceed the 18-month time limit imposed for provincial court trials by the Supreme Court of Canada and a further delay is presumed to cause prejudice to the accused.
All the Mounties pleaded not guilty, and Lamperson said Lebrun and White applied to have the prosecution against them stayed for the assault with a weapon charge that was sworn in February 2015, though proceedings were repeatedly adjourned over issues such as requests for disclosure.
Lamperson said 16 days over four weeks were initially set for a trial starting in May 2016, but disclosure issues and unavailability of lawyers led to further delays and an offer of three alternative dates for start of the trial, either in May, August or October 2017.
However, the judge said that while Crown counsel was available, defence lawyers were not. He said the lawyers provided four sets of possible dates for the trial to begin and then the court could not accommodate those dates.
Defence lawyers for each of the accused officers provided various dates that would have had proceedings starting as late as October 2018, Lamperson said, adding they also suggested Jones and White be tried separately from Lebrun, a move the Crown consented to.
Lamperson said defence delays in fixing the first trial date amount to 113 days, disclosure application issues added 212 days, but the unavailability of defence lawyers caused even longer delays.
A new lawyer for the victim, Trevor Vandervalk, also did not receive timely disclosure, the judge said.
“All things considered, I find the defence could have filed their disclosure applications much earlier than they did. I find that if they (had) done so, the disclosure process would very likely have been concluded before May 24, 2016, when the trial was first set to begin.”
The Canadian Press