Vader hearing reveals more failures in disclosure
Wednesday, Jan 13, 2016 06:00 am
Travis Vader was back in court Tuesday morning as lawyers argued the merits of his abuse-of-process application in relation to the stay of proceedings the Crown entered for the two murder charges against him.
Court documents filed Monday, which were obtained and reported on by several media outlets, revealed the RCMP had paid a jailhouse informant for evidence against Vader. The defence briefs state that information was not properly disclosed to the Crown, which prompted former chief Crown prosecutor Michelle Doyle to enter a stay of proceedings.
"She learned from the RCMP that there was a whole package of material about (the informant) that the RCMP had not included in the disclosure package, including statements, interviews and multiple letters of agreement," media reports have quoted the documents as saying.
Nathan Whitling, a member of Vader's defence team, spent the morning arguing that not only did the stay of proceedings amount to an abuse of process with the Crown trying to do an "end run" around court process, but that it also resulted in a breach of Vader's rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Specifically, the right under Section 11(b) guarantees anyone accused of a crime the right to a trial without unreasonable delay.
He noted it has been about four years since the charges were laid, and about half of that time has been a result of the Crown's stay. Vader's first trial was scheduled to end in June 2014, and his trial is now scheduled to end in April 2016.
"We're talking about roughly two years of pure Crown delay," he said. "This is not systemic or intuitional delay," such as delay in scheduling a trial.
Justice Denny Thomas noted that in reading the defence briefs, the possibility of a Charter-rights breach seems more significant.
"It was a bit of a sleeper issue," he said. "In the course of the evidence it didn't jump out at me, but in reading the briefs it really jumps out at me."
Whitling cited several cases where judges found delays of less than two years to constitute a breach.
He argued the Crown's position would likely be that it was a complex case requiring a complex investigation, but noted the 18-month period between July 2010 and April 2012 where Vader had been declared a person of interest but not been charged would allow for that complex investigation and the additional two years following the stay wasn't justified. Regardless, it wouldn't justify the problems with the disclosure, which he described as "brain farts" by the RCMP.
Whitling said the effects of the delay have been much more pronounced as a result of the intense media scrutiny of this case.
That has caused prejudice against him while he's out on bail – he has had trouble finding a job despite a good employment history – and also when he's been in pre-trial custody.
"Everyone in the Remand Centre reads the news, it seems," he said, adding it has caused a lot of difficulty for his client. "Mr. Vader's the most notorious man in Alberta and he's never been tried."
Whitling acknowledged Vader had been in custody on other charges, as well, but nonetheless suggested the murder charges hanging over his head have contributed to prejudice against him during the lengthy delay in the legal proceedings.
The Crown was expected to make its arguments in the afternoon, after the Gazette's press deadline.
Prosecutor Ashley Finlayson said he expected to complete his arguments by the end of the day, and expected Thomas to reserve his decision.