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‘Major screw-up’ in sexual assault case, says P.E.I. judge

Provincial Court of Prince Edward Island
Provincial Court of Prince Edward Island - SaltWire Network

A P.E.I. judge had some strong words for the lawyers involved in a sexual assault case after the defence didn’t get a copy of the complainant’s statement to police.

The case involved allegations against former Bluefield High School youth worker Arthur Francis McGuigan, who is charged with sexual assault, sexual interference and a drug offence.

McGuigan appeared before Chief Judge Nancy Orr in provincial court in Charlottetown last week for a preliminary inquiry that didn’t go ahead because the defence didn’t get a copy of the statement until about an hour and a half before the inquiry was supposed to start.

Orr called it a “major screw-up” and apologized for the inconvenience to any witnesses who were in court to testify.

As she dealt with the matter, Orr questioned how the police could not provide the statement for disclosure. She also said it was the type of thing that happens too often.

“It’s incomprehensible,” she said.

The court heard a video statement was taken in Ontario in 2016, but the Crown attorneys’ office never received it.

In criminal cases, the Crown has an obligation to provide the defence with disclosure of all evidence from the police.

Orr said there is also an obligation from legal counsel to review the disclosure and make sure they have what they’re looking for.

The court heard the defence only recently requested the statement from the Crown, and Orr noted the matter was before the court since June.

Orr said a fundamental aspect of a sexual assault charge is the complainant’s allegation and she questioned how anyone could not know there was a statement.

What sexual assault trial doesn’t have a statement from the complainant, Orr asked.

“They just don’t happen.”

Orr granted the adjournment and said the matter needs to be looked into further to ensure it never happens again.

McGuigan will be back in court Jan. 18 for the preliminary inquiry.

A publication ban prevents the publication of any details that could identify the complainant.

Ryan.ross@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/ryanrross

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