Home invasion charges stayed due to judge shortage

UPDATED: The federal justice ministry has responded on the issue.
Home invasion charges against three individuals were stayed in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday after it took more than two years for their trial to start.

UPDATED: The federal justice ministry has responded on the issue.

Home invasion charges against three individuals were stayed in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday after it took more than two years for their trial to start.

Lawyers for the accused said the delay can be attributed to a lack of Queen’s Bench justices in Red Deer.

Zachariah Nwarbie, Christopher Nwarbie and Meagan Nicole Gaalaas — two brothers and a girlfriend of one of the brothers — were charged with break and enter, robbery and assault in relation to a May 27, 2012, home invasion. Gaalaas was also charged with assault with a weapon.

Twenty-seven and a half months later, the three had their day in court. They appeared in court on Monday afternoon represented by lawyers Patty MacNaughton, Andrew Phypers and Michael Scrase before Justice Monica Bast.

The defence counsel applied for a stay of proceedings because it had taken so long to get to court. The stay was granted. A stay of charges means the Crown can bring the charges back within one year, but has to file an appeal to do so.

However, the prosecution against the three has ended for now.

“They’re basically done for all intents and purposes,” said MacNaughton of her client’s court proceedings.

People convicted of a home invasion can be sentenced to up to 10 years in custody.

The three were originally scheduled for a judge-alone Queen’s Bench trial starting on Oct. 1, 2013.

However, they were double-booked with another trial. The other trial went ahead and the home invasion trial was moved to the next available date, almost a year later.

“Their charter rights were violated,” said MacNaughton. She cited Section 11B of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “which is the right to be tried within a reasonable time.”

Scrase said they were told there was no justice available to go ahead with the matter before the trial date on Monday.

“We’re suffering as a result of the lack of resources at this point,” said Scrase. He said there had been talk of Red Deer getting another Queen’s Bench justice, but one has not materialized.

According to the Alberta Courts Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench directory, there are three justices in Red Deer: Bast, Kirk Sisson and John Little.

Court of Queen’s Bench justices are federally appointed. Queen’s Bench is a superior court of civil and criminal jurisdiction.

Josh Stewart, press secretary for the Alberta Justice Minister, said the province needs an additional 12 judges on the Court of Queen’s Bench just to be on par with British Columbia.

“Alberta still badly needs additional judges on the Court of Queen’s Bench. On a per capita basis, our province has lowest number of judges at this level of court in Canada,” said Stewart, in an emailed statement. “Alberta has the fewest Queen’s Bench judges per capita in Canada, with only one Queen’s Bench judge per 61,925 people (based on 65 federally recognized judicial positions available). In order for Alberta to be on par with the next lowest jurisdiction — B.C. — the federal government would have to appoint an additional 12 judges. We continue to support the Court of Queen’s Bench in their request to the federal government to appoint more judges. In the meantime, we are trying to take pressure off Queen’s Bench judges by bringing in case management counsel to assist with the resolution of court cases.”

Clarissa Lamb, spokesperson for federal justice minister Peter McKay, said in an email that the government has made more than 600 judicial appointments since 2006.

“In Economic Action Plan 2014, our government committed to the creation of two additional federally appointed judicial positions in Alberta,” she said. “These additional positions will reduce delays to ensure that cases are heard in a timely manner and that serious charges are not dropping because of hearing delays.”


Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer’s noxious weeds are a goat’s dietary delight

Piper Creek Community Garden gets chemical-free weed control

Get your guilty pleasures: Westerner Days food

Traditional sugary treats were served up by the plate, bowl and bucket… Continue reading

Centrefest brings feats of daring to Red Deer’s downtown

Fundraising was a tough slog, but it came together in the end

Count shows slight decrease in Red Deer’s homeless

In two years, the number of homeless in Red Deer has decreased… Continue reading

Redoing hip surgeries are costly, says new study

Redoing hip and knee replacements costs Canada’s health system $130 million a… Continue reading

WATCH: Cirque ZUMA ZUMA puts on a show at Westerner Days

ZUMA ZUMA performs three times a day during Westerner Days

Jones’ punt return TD rallies Riders to road victory over Ticats

Roughriders 31 Tiger-Cats 20 HAMILTON — Brandon Bridge kept Dave Watford on… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Red Deer’s Iron Buffalo rocks Westerner Days

Iron Buffalo opened for Helix and Lee Aaron Thursday at the ENMAX Centrium

Zuckerberg’s Holocaust comment puts Facebook on the spot

NEW YORK — Denying the Holocaust happened is probably OK on Facebook.… Continue reading

Brazilian police arrest ‘Dr. Bumbum’ after patient dies

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian police have arrested celebrated plastic surgeon Denis… Continue reading

Canadian marijuana company Tilray has first US pot IPO

SEATTLE — A Canadian company is the first marijuana business to complete… Continue reading

Dolphins anthem punishment includes suspensions

Miami Dolphins players who protest on the field during the national anthem… Continue reading

Soy “milk” makers may need to find alternative description

NEW YORK — Soy and almond drinks that bill themselves as “milk”… Continue reading

Calgary woman convicted in son’s strep death granted day parole

CALGARY — A woman whose son died after she failed to take… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month