Drug trafficking charges stayed after lengthy trial wait

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A Fort McMurray Court of King’s Bench Justice has stayed charges against three people after ruling they have been waiting too long for a trial. Stayed charges means the Crown has one year to restart charges and resume trial, or the matter will be considered closed.

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The three people were arrested in January 2022 as part of a larger drug trafficking investigation by Wood Buffalo RCMP. Police charged Shane Lawrence Brazil of Spruce Grove, and Gary and Destiny Reid of Saltcoats, Sask. with possessing property obtained by crime over $5,000 and careless use of a firearm. Brazil was also charged with trafficking cocaine and possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine.

The defense first indicated in June 2022 they were ready to set dates for a trial. The case made three more appearances in court and kept getting delayed. A four-day trial was scheduled for November 2024 in September 2023. The trial was than rescheduled to a two-day April 2024 trial in October 2023.

When the trial began, a presiding Justice said there was no Justice available to hear the trial because of a “lack of judicial resources.” Thirteen witnesses were subpoenaed and ready to appear, including three remotely. The Crown and defence witnesses had all travelled “significant distances” for the trial. The trial was than rescheduled for July 17 and 18,

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Justice Kent Teskey of the Court of King’s Bench ruled on June 27 that the constant delays were “contrary to the public interest.”

Teskey cited the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 Jordan decision, which outlined reasonable limits on how long an accused can wait for a trial without having their Charter rights violated. The Jordan decision set a time limit of 30 months, but this was not to be an “an aspirational target.” The July trial would have been one week shy of 30 months.

“The presumptive ceiling continues to be a significant threat to criminal cases. This is an issue of resources rather than resolve,” Teskey said in his decision.

“It is unreasonable and markedly longer than it ought to have taken. To endorse this delay would be to turn 30 months into the aspirational target that the Supreme Court explicitly cautioned against.”

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