Charges of criminal libel and extortion withdrawn by Crown; judge stays remaining charges because of unreasonable delay
In October 2009, J.D., a man with no criminal record, was charged with numerous criminal offences including criminal libel, extortion and two counts of criminal harassment. Criminal libel is a very rare charge in Canada.
It was a complex case that involved the execution of a search warrant, computer forensics and over 200 e-mails. After disclosure was complete, the matter was scheduled for a preliminary hearing beginning in June 2011. The delay in getting to that stage was caused in part by the complexity of the matter.
In the spring of 2011, after extensive negotiations between the Crown and defence, the Crown formally withdrew the charges of criminal libel and extortion. It proceeded only on the two counts of criminal harassment. At that point, the preliminary hearing dates were converted to trial dates. The trial commenced in June 16, 2011. J.D. was represented at trial by Erec Rolfe.
Due to the shear volume of material, the trial did not complete in the allotted time. Accordingly, additional trial dates were scheduled, beginning in April 2012.
In Canada, everyone charged with an offence has a right to a trial within a reasonable time, pursuant to s. 11(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In September 2011, the defence brought an application seeking a judicial stay of proceedings because of unreasonable delay.
What constitutes a “reasonable time” is not a fixed period – it changes from case to case and depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case. The application was heard on April 2, 2012. The Crown argued that the delay in this case was reasonable, in light of the complexity of the matter. Erec, on the other hand, argued that even considering the complexity of the matter, it took too long for the trial to complete.
On May 7, 2012, the court ruled that J.D.’s constitutional right to a trial within a reasonable time had been violated. Accordingly, the court stayed the proceedings pursuant to s. 24(1) of the Charter. His Honour’s ruling brought an end to a long fight on behalf of J.D.