A serious misconduct of trial has resulted for an Ontario-based judge ordering the Crown to fork over $580,000 in court costs. The misconduct resulted in the mistrial of three suspects in a violent Brampton kidnapping. The order to pay the court costs is the highest amount granted in a criminal case.
The evidence of the misconduct was so grievous that a statement was releasedby Justice Antonio Skaricaregarding the case. The event of a judge requiring court costs to be paid is uncommon in criminal cases because there is little history of the practice.Requiring awards to be paid in criminal cases is often used as an example to discourage and discipline unjustified and flagrant events of non-disclosure.
It was revealed that Crown prosecutors had disclosed to defence lawyers that they possessed the detailed cellphone records belonging to a suspect. This piece of evidence was kept hidden for close to 18 months during preliminary hearings and during one month of the trial. It was also revealed that Peel Regional Police did not disclose a suspect’s lost wallet that tied him to the aggressive kidnapping. The wallet was seized from the pants of a suspect during the arrest. Also found during the arrest, were more of the kidnapping victim’s items such as a cheque and her driver’s licence.
A Peel officer PC Getty attestedin court that the wallet was missing, but did not inform anyone at the time. Skarica said it was hard to believe that no one noted the missing piece of evidence and there was no explanation for the disappearance.
The three suspects are accused of kidnapping a woman from her home. For two days, she was bound to a bed in another location, threatened, and beaten by the men who commanded she pay them $100,000. The victim was eventually rescued on day three of her abduction in 2011. Because of the missing evidence, the judge declared a mistrial and the three suspects were freed from prison.
In his statement, the justicegranted the defence lawyers amounts of money that were on par with each lawyer’s experience in upwards of $700 per hour. Skarica also noted the fact that different prosecutors had been involved in the case at different stages,resulting in the cellphone records failing to be disclosed.
Osgoode Hall Law School professor Alan Young said the ability of courts and judges to award costs in such cases as this criminal case was established in the 1990s through litigation. Although it is relatively new, it is rarely used and the amounts are usually under $10,000. Also in his statement, Skarica rejected the notion from the Crown that the Peel police should bear the responsibility of the costs because they were primarily at fault.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has stated the Crown is currently reviewing the decision by Justice Skarica. The Peel Regional Police are not able to comment on any ruling involving the Crown.