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The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled that the time limits for adult criminal trials also apply to youth criminal trials.

What Happened?

On April 11, 2015, a 15-year-old boy (the “accused”) got into a fight with a 16-year old (the “victim”) at a house party. During the fight, the accused stabbed the victim in the face and the back of the head with a box cutter, causing serious injuries.

On April 12, 2015, the accused was arrested and charged with a number of offences, including aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose contrary to the Criminal Code. Bail was initially denied, but on April 21, 2015, the Crown consented to the accused’s release on his own undertaking, with minimal conditions.

On May 19, 2015, the accused pleaded not guilty to all charges. He claimed he had acted in self-defence.

On November 9, 2016, almost 19 months after charges were laid, he was found guilty of aggravated assault and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. 

The accused was sentenced to 160 days in custody on the aggravated assault charge and 20 days on the weapon possession charge, less time spent in custody before and after conviction, followed by community supervision and probation. 

Even though the accused served his sentence, he appealed on the basis that the delay in his trial violated his right to be tried within a reasonable time under s. 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, for which he had unsuccessfully applied for a stay of proceedings prior to being found guilty.

Issues

In the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 decision R. v. Jordan (“Jordan”), which was released nearly 15 months after the accused was charged, this Supreme Court introduced a new s. 11(b) framework, replacing the previous one. This new framework created two presumptive ceilings beyond which delay is presumed to be unreasonable: 

(1) an 18-month ceiling for single-stage provincial court proceedings; and 

(2) a 30-month ceiling for proceedings conducted in the superior court. 

The accused’s appeal raised two main issues: 

  1. Do these presumptive ceilings apply to youth justice court proceedings? 
  2. Was the delay in the accused’s case unreasonable?

Lower Court Decisions

At the time of the original decision on the issue, the trial judge found that the total delay was somewhat uncertain, as the trial had yet to complete. She estimated that it fell somewhere between 18 and 19 months. She did not attribute any delay to either the Crown or the defence. 

The trial judge reasoned that because the delay exceeded the 18-month Jordan ceiling, it was presumptively unreasonable. However, she refused to enter a stay, reasoning that “it is just not the clearest of cases where I should stay it”. As a result, she dismissed the s. 11(b) application. 

The accused appealed the trial judge’s s. 11(b) ruling, raising for the first time the argument that the 18-month presumptive ceiling established in Jordan should be lowered in youth cases.

The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.

Supreme Court of Canada Decision

The Supreme Court of Canada found that the presumptive ceilings established in Jordan apply to youth justice court proceedings, stating:

“[U]less and until it can be shown that Jordan is failing to adequately serve Canada’s youth and society’s broader interest in seeing youth matters tried expeditiously, there is in my view no need to consider, much less implement, a lower constitutional ceiling for youth matters.”

In the case of the accused, the court did not find that a stay of proceedings was warranted. It found that after deducting two to three months of defence delay and about one month of delay resulting from an administrative error, the delay in the accused’s case fell below the 18-month presumptive ceiling. 

As a result, the court dismissed the appeal.

Get Advice

Being criminally convicted can have a significant impact on your life, leading to a permanent record, significant fines, and/or jail time. This can seriously impact your reputation, your employment opportunities, and even your ability to travel outside of Canada. If you have been charged with a criminal offence, it is imperative to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible to learn about your options and to protect yourself.

At Campbell Bader LLP, we can help. Our team of exceptional Mississauga criminal defence lawyers has been representing clients charged with criminal offences since 1999. We are highly skilled litigators and have conducted trials in the Superior Court and Ontario Court of Justice. We have the knowledge, experience, and skill-set to effectively defend clients charged with even the most serious of offences. We will listen, consider, and provide you with practical options. Contact us online or at 905-828-2247.