The Corner Brook defence lawyer, like everyone else involved in his profession across the country, was keenly interested in what the Supreme Court of Canada had to say in a ruling Friday that will impact the time it takes cases to be resolved in the court system.
The federal court upheld the principles of a decision it made about a year ago, now commonly referred to as the Jordan ruling. The Jordan ruling outlined that criminal matters at the provincial court level should be completed within 18 months from the date charges are filed to the expected conclusion of a trial.
Cases heard at the Supreme Court level ought to be resolved within 30 months.
Friday’s decision by the federal court involved the dismissal of the case of James Cody, an accused drug dealer from Newfoundland and Labrador, which took about five years to get to trial.
Ash is currently defending a Northern Peninsula man in provincial court on charges of impaired driving whose case has been weaving through the courts for more than 21 months.
He is also defending a Stephenville woman in Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador on charges of break and entry, being disguised while committing an offence, robbery and uttering threats in the spring of 2014.
He will be filing applications in both those cases to argue the prosecution of his clients has taken an unduly long time, as per the Jordan ruling.
“What the court says is it is not enough to look back and try to fix the delay after it happens,” said Ash. “The Cody decision asks everyone to take a proactive approach to prevent unnecessary delays.”
The ruling discusses the role of trial judges to curtail delays by measures such as summarily dismissing applications that appear to have no merit, as opposed to taking the time to hear formal arguments in their entirety.
“All justice system participants, including defence counsel, must now accept that many practices that were tolerated before are no longer compatible with rights guaranteed under the Charter,” said Ash.
Ash said the ruling could mean more judges need to be appointed and more prosecutors and legal aid lawyers hired so more trial dates can be set and cases heard in a more timely fashion.