R. v. THANABALASINGHARN 2020 SCC 18

Right to speedy trial under Section 11(b) of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Delay of 30 months more than the permissible limit lead to ‘stay on proceedings’ in trial.

In this case, the Respondent was charged with second degree murder of his spouse in August 2012. However subsequently, the crown chose to pursue a charge of first degree against the Respondent which caused delay of more than year. After the preliminary enquiry, the trial was scheduled to commence in April 2017. This according to the respondent exceeded the reasonable time of his trial entitling him to relief of ‘stay of proceedings’. The motion for the same was filed by respondent under Section 11(b) of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms wherein any person charged with an offence entails a right to be tried within a reasonable time. Hence, provides a right to a speedy trial to the accused. In case of violation of which, the relief of estopping the trial in form of ‘stay of proceedings’ can be sought. The Respondent cited the case of R. v. Jordan, 2016 SC 27 whereby the Supreme Court established that a delay longer than 18 months from when a charge is laid to the trial’s completion is “presumptively unreasonable” and such delay by crown unless justified by exceptional circumstance that are either enforceable or beyond the Crown’s control must result in stay of the proceedings.

The trial court stayed on proceeding which was further re-affirmed by the Court of Appeal. Supreme Court of Canada also agreed with the stay order and for dismissed the Appeal of the appellant. The court found that preliminary hearing was not an exceptional circumstance which can justify the delay. The Morin case guidelines also provided to end trial within 14 to 18 months which in this case is exceeded upto 43 months. The reasons given by the Court are that there is no doubt that delay exceed 30 months presumptive ceiling provided in Jordan case. Respondent has right to be tried within reasonable time. Quebec court calculated net delay under 35 months because delay arising from the preliminary enquiry which is discrete exceptional event, thus Appellate court erred in law as Preliminary hearing length is not discrete event outside the control of Court. According to the court, prosecution failed to establish that the clause of exceptional delay applied in facts of the case. Court noted that the respondent spent nearly five years in custody because of prejudice suffered by him. The bench acknowledged the burden on system to take proactive measures at all stages of the trial process to move cases forward and bring accused persons to trial in a timely fashion.