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Constitutional Law - Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Legal rights - On being charged with an offence - To be tried within a reasonable time - Remedies for denial of rights

Thursday, July 21, 2016 @ 8:00 PM  

Appeal by Vassell from a judgment of the Alberta Court of Appeal affirming a decision convicting him for possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking. Vassell was charged along with six other individuals, but the Crown eventually proceeded to trial against him alone. The delay to trial was over three years. Vassell argued that his right to be tried within a reasonable time under s. 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was violated and asked the Court to set aside his conviction and enter a stay of proceedings. The trial judge dismissed the Vassell’s application and entered a conviction, which was affirmed by a majority of the Court of Appeal.

HELD: Appeal allowed. At every opportunity, Vassell attempted to move his case to trial. The Crown, having chosen to prosecute all seven co-accused jointly, was required to remain vigilant that its decision not compromise the s. 11(b) rights of the accused persons. The delay caused by the various co-accused not only prevented the Crown’s case from moving forward, it also prevented Vassell from proceeding expeditiously, as he wanted. Having to wait three years for a three-day trial deprived Vassell of his right to be tried within a reasonable time. The Crown was required to be more proactive in light of Vassell’s consistent efforts to obtain a speedy trial — and the system was insufficiently robust to provide him with earlier dates following the second adjournment of his trial. The conviction was set aside, and a stay of proceedings was entered.