Justice of the peace dismissed 60 cha...

Justice of the peace dismissed 60 charges because prosecutor was two minutes lat

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North Bay, Canada

#1 Mar 1, 2013
Justice of the peace dismissed 60 charges because prosecutor was two minutes late

An impatient justice of the peace tossed out more than 60 charges because the prosecutor was tardy, costing the city lost revenues and prompting a battle with its legal department.

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By:Rachel MendlesonNews reporter, Published on Thu Feb 28 2013

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An impatient justice of the peace tossed out more than 60 charges en masse because the prosecutor was two minutes late, costing the city lost revenues and prompting a battle with Toronto’s legal department.

Maintaining that the justice of the peace unreasonably dismissed the charges — which include failing to yield to a pedestrian — the Crown is appealing four of the cases.“What we’re concerned about is a point of law,” said George Bartlett, the city’s director of prosecutions.“We feel it was an incorrect decision by the justice of the peace.”

The charges were dismissed shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 4 in Courtroom F of Old City Hall, where Justice of the Peace Alfred “Bud” Johnston was scheduled to hear dozens of cases.

The vast majority of these were charged under the Highway Traffic Act, said Vartan Manoukian, a paralegal representing the defendants whose cases are being appealed.

Bartlett said prosecutor Michael Rose was just outside the courtroom, in the midst of checking in defendants —“part of the prosecutor’s role”— when proceedings began.

“With the commotion in the hallway at Old City Hall, the paging system wasn’t audible at that location,” Bartlett said.“I don’t think there was anything wrong with what Mr. Rose did.”

Approached at the Ontario Court of Justice at College Park on Thursday morning, Johnston refused to confirm he was the justice of the peace who threw out the cases.

When asked about the appeal, Johnston asked,“Are these people upset that their cases were thrown out?” and said,“The act says, if there’s no prosecutor...” before trailing off.

It’s not clear what legislation he was citing, but the Provincial Offences Act mandates that “where the defendant appears for a hearing and the prosecutor, having had due notice, does not appear, the court may dismiss the charge or may adjourn the hearing.”

Johnston declined to comment further, and said he could not be quoted.

He later instructed a security officer to remove the Star from the premises.

According to the regional senior justice of the peace office, Johnston was sitting in Courtroom F on the afternoon of Dec. 4.

Citing court documents, Bartlett said the justice of the peace who dismissed the charges was “A. Johnston.”

There is only one “A. Johnston” presiding as a justice of the peace in Toronto.

Jane Warwick, executive assistant to the chief justice, declined a request for comment.

“It would be inappropriate for the court to comment on this matter given that it is now being appealed,” she said.

This is not the first time that minor tardiness has led to a pile of charges being thrown out.

In November, Justice Howard Chisvin was formally reprimanded for dismissing 10 charges — including assault and robbery — because the Crown lawyer was 87 seconds late.

The charges were not as severe in this instance. Bartlett said the Crown has no intention of pursuing any of the charges, which include failing to stop at a stop sign, failing to stop at a red light, failing to yield to a pedestrian and proceeding contrary to a sign at an intersection.

The four cases were singled out because challenging more than 60 cases “would just clog up the appeal court,” he said.

The matter was last heard in Old City Hall on Wednesday, when the appeal was set for March 21.

Courtroom L was meant to be in session at 10 a.m., but the start was delayed until closer to 10:10. As it happens, the judge was late

Toronto, Canada

#2 Mar 1, 2013

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