‘Ottawa’ Ottawa Dad Accused of Breaking Infant’s Bones Has Case Tossed Due to Trial Delay
A father accused of breaking his two-week-old baby’s ankles has had his criminal charge stayed by a judge, making it the second known case of alleged child abuse in Ottawa to be tossed out due to court delays since a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling.
“We were angry, we were crying, we were outraged that he was able to get off with this (ruling),” the boy’s grandmother told the Citizen on Thursday.
In the latest case, the Ottawa man was accused of breaking his son’s bones while he was living with him in September 2014. The boy was taken to Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario for treatment and after an Ottawa police investigation, the father, who was 20 at the time, was charged in December 2014 with assault causing bodily harm.
But nearly two years later, Ontario Court Justice Mitchell Hoffman stayed the charge on Nov. 29, 2016, after ruling the delay in moving the case forward through the court violated the father’s constitutional right to a speedy trial. It would have taken about 24 months from the day the father was charged to the anticipated end of the trial, which never started.
Just as the boy’s mother and grandmother were preparing to testify in December, they got an unexpected phone call. They thought it was someone from the courthouse calling with information about their upcoming court appearance.
Instead, they say they were told they were no longer needed because the case was being thrown out.
“We honestly have hatred. So much hatred, it’s unbelievable,” the grandmother said. “We thought justice would prevail. We honestly thought the justice system would take care of right from wrong, especially whenever it’s involving a child.”
The names in the case cannot be published because the child’s identity is subject to a publication ban. The father, now 22, maintains his innocence, according to his defence lawyer, Meaghan Thomas.
This case is among a handful in Ottawa that have been stayed following a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last July that established new rules for an accused’s trial to be completed within a reasonable time.
Delays that exceed 18 months in provincial courts — or 30 months in Superior Court — are “presumptively unreasonable,” according to the ruling known as the R. v. Jordan decision.
Charges must be stayed unless the Crown can prove the delays were due to exceptional or unavoidable circumstances or that the delay was justified under guidelines that existed before the Jordan decision.
Last month, another Ottawa judge stayed a charge against a 15-year-old boy accused of sexually assaulting a three-year-old girl at his mother’s daycare in 2015. The delay in that case was 21 months.
It was just two weeks before this latest child abuse case was tossed out that the Jordan law really came under fire. An accused killer and ex-soldier, Adam Picard, walked free after a judge stayed a first-degree murder charge because his trial took four years to get started after he was charged. It was the first time in Ontario since the Jordan decision that a murder charge had been stayed due to court delays.
In both of those cases, the families of the complainants excoriated the new law, saying it had left them feeling betrayed by the justice system.
The mother and grandmother rattled by the outcome of this latest case also say the justice system has let them down. They are raising questions now about why this trial was allowed to drag on for so long.
“We’re completely, completely disgusted by it,” the grandmother said.
“We have no faith in the judicial system at all. We have no faith in it anymore to allow something like this to happen.”
The Crown and defence were at odds with each other over who was to blame for delaying the case.
Court filings reveal the defence alleged the Crown failed in its obligations to provide full disclosure leading up to the trial. The Crown fired back by arguing the trial could have been completed well before the Jordan decision if it weren’t for the defence’s “actions, inactions and confusion” throughout the case.
The judge had originally planned to deliver his detailed explanation for staying the assault charge last December, but adjourned the matter to Monday in provincial court.