B.C. men to return to court after sheriff shortage prompted charge dismissals

Judges in separate cases had slammed the government for not hiring enough sheriffs

Two Victoria men whose criminal charges were dropped last year because of a lack of available sheriffs have been ordered back to court.

Michael John Dubensky and Richard Anthony D’Allesandro were accused in separate cases on various drug trafficking and weapons offences, but Crown was allowed to protest the dismissal of charges in a single appeal because they involve the same issues and location.

According to court documents, D’Allesandro was scheduled for a half-day trial in 2017 on charges of possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking in an alleged incident three years earlier. But a sheriff was not available.

“Crown is ready to go. Defence is ready to go. The court is ready to go,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Johnston said at the time. “Mr. D’Allesandro is in custody in this building, but he is not able to attend because there are no sheriffs to bring him to court.

“That is completely unacceptable. I am not prepared to conduct this trial in Mr. D’Allesandro’s absence. He has a right to be here and he should be here.”

Johnston stayed the proceedings, essentially dropping the charges and blaming a lack of “provincial will” to provide proper resources.

READ MORE: NDP hope to nix court delays with $15 million cash influx

READ MORE: Court delays one of several issues tackled by feds in tabled bill

Dubenksy, meanwhile, was charged with possession of heroin for the purpose of trafficking, as well as possession of bear spray, in relation to a 2015 incident.

He was to remain in custody during his three-day trial in 2017. But court documents say no sheriffs were available to sit in the courtroom, nor stay with him while he is transported to and from the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre.

“It is the responsibility of the state, that is the province, to adequately staff courthouses, and part of that responsibility of staffing includes making sure there are sheriffs available so that trials can run as they are meant to and must run,” B.c. Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Dorgan said at the time.

“Sheriffs are pivotal to the operation of a trial and particularly so in regard to an in-custody trial in the criminal field.”

In his decision Tuesday, B.C. Appeal Court Justice David Frankel sided with Crown in its appeal.

“While the judges were right to be concerned — and, it would appear, frustrated — over the unavailability of sheriffs and the effect a lack of sufficient sheriffs can have on the Supreme Court’s ability to carry out its functions,” Frankel wrote, “how they chose to address that problem in dealing with the cases before them was both procedurally inappropriate and extreme.”

He and the other two appeal judges set aside the stays of proceedings for both men and remitted the matters for trial.

A lack of sheriffs has long caused delays in the B.C. justice system.

Such shortages let to six courtroom delays and eight closures between fall 2016 and spring 2017, according to the province. In March 2017, the under-staffing in provincial court in Victoria got so stark a Kamloops deputy sheriff was flown in to lend a hand.

The NDP government pledged $15 million in its February budget to hire more staff, while the federal government tabled a new bill last month aimed at reforming many problems of the justice system, including court delays.

Just Posted

DNA test links two cougar incidents in Fernie

Further information has surfaced linking a child that was attacked by a… Continue reading

CO Service euthanize emaciated black bear

The animal had left its den and taken shelter in a shed with cattle.

Local figure skater wins prestigious award

Sparwood’s Bree Chardonnens named B.C./Yukon STARSkate Athlete Of The Year

Fruitvale man identified in fatal zipline accident in Thailand

Spencer Donaldson, 25, was from Fruitvale, B.C., the city’s mayor has confirmed

Elk Valley water monitoring program expanding

Elk River Alliance to monitor Boivin and Coal creeks based on community feedback

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

GALLERY: Fernie Stoke Fest a smashing success

2019 event attracts sellout crowd to Fernie Community Centre April 6

Dedicated Sparwood volunteer honoured

Elk Valley Thrift Shop Society manager to receive 2019 BC Achievement Community Award

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Police pursue pesky porker on Vancouver Island

‘This was allegedly not the pig’s first escape’

Westjet tries again to dismiss proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination

Former flight attendant claims airline broke contractual promise to create harassment-free workplace

Most Read