Alan Teck Meng Lai v. Her Majesty the Queen
(British Columbia) (Criminal) (As of Right)
(Publication ban in case)
Criminal law - Canadian charter (Criminal) - Criminal law - Charter of Rights - Right to trial within a reasonable delay - Discrete exceptional events - Transitional exceptional circumstance - Whether the delay of 43 months is justified as a transitional exceptional circumstance under s. 11(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
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The appellant was charged in August 2013 with a number of sexual offences. In November 2017, he sought a stay of proceedings due to a breach of his s. 11(b) Charter right to trial within a reasonable delay. The trial judge found that the total expected delay for the proceedings would be 57 months, and he subtracted a period of 25 months which he attributed to two discrete exceptional events: a re-election by the accused, and an underestimate of the time required for the trial. The remaining delay of 32 months was still above the presumptive ceiling established in R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27,  1 S.C.R. 631, but the trial judge concluded that the additional delay was justified under the transitional exceptional circumstance, and dismissed the application. The appellant was found guilty at the conclusion of his trial.
The appellant appealed his convictions on the basis that the trial judge erred in dismissing his stay application. A majority of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia dismissed the appeal and upheld the convictions. It held that the trial judge had erred in excluding the period attributable to the appellant’s re-election from the overall delay, and found the net delay to be 43 months. The majority held that the 43-month delay was nevertheless justified by the transitional exceptional circumstance. In dissent, Butler J.A. found that the transitional exceptional circumstance did not apply, and would have allowed the appeal and entered a stay of proceedings.
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