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PROCEDURE - Trials - Stay of proceedings

Thursday, July 16, 2020 @ 5:53 AM  

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Appeal by the Crown from a stay of proceedings entered on one count of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The Crown alleged that the accused, Bacon, ordered the murder of Lal in the context of a dispute between rival criminal gangs. The ensuing events led to the killing of Lal and five others in a notorious execution-style shooting that occurred in 2007. The ensuing police investigation involved approximately 1,300 officers and 80 informants. The accused and six others were charged in relation to the killings. One co-accused pleaded guilty and testified for the Crown against two other co-accused, resulting in guilty verdicts. Bacon was tried separately. In 2017, the trial judge entered a stay of the proceedings involving Bacon after more than four years of pretrial proceedings. The stay was entered to remedy abuses of process during the police investigation that contravened fundamental notions of justice and undermined the integrity of the justice system. The judge concluded that the misconduct and potential harm to the integrity of the justice system from trying the accused outweighed the harm in having no trial on the charges. The Crown appealed.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The trial judge properly found that some police conduct amounted to an abuse of process. However, the trial judge erred in characterizing other instances of police conduct as sufficiently serious or grossly negligent to constitute abuses of process. The errors were based on an overly expansive view of the court’s oversight role with respect to both police compliance with police policy and police file storage and management in the absence of consequences impugning the integrity of the justice system. The conduct at issue would not shock the public conscience. Additionally, the judge erred in considering steps taken to remedy the misconduct. Errors aside, the character of the remaining misconduct engaged the integrity of the justice system. A fresh balancing of the factors favouring a trial and those favouring a stay favoured a full trial of the charges on their merits. The stay was set aside, and the matter was remitted for trial.

R. v. Bacon, [2020] B.C.J. No. 951, British Columbia Court of Appeal, M.E. Saunders, R. Goepel and J.J.L. Hunter JJ.A., June 12, 2020. Digest No. TLD-July132020007