Rush to Judgment? JP’s Comments Lead to Acquittal

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A Toronto man convicted of speeding has been acquitted, after an appeal court found “reasonable apprehension of bias” in the trial justice’s comments.

In Toronto (City) v. Mangov, 2014 ONCJ 351 (CanLII), a justice of the peace had cut short a paralegal’s cross-examination of a police witness, suggested the defendant seek resolution with the prosecutor and “seemed to assume he was guilty from the beginning.”

Noting that a retrial should be the exception and not the rule in such cases, Justice S. Nakatsuru wrote in the July 23 decision:

“I doubt that one acquittal in the circumstances that this case presents would impair the objectives of the law. I doubt that one acquittal in the circumstances that this case presents would impair the objectives of the law.”

Nakatsuru found the facts of the case are “not egregious or even noteworthy”:

    “The conviction cannot stand but no useful purpose will be served by having the offence decided on its merits. This would be the appellant’s third trial date in a process that was designed to be fair and expeditious. While most individuals appear unrepresented at these trials, the fact that the appellant has retained an agent on two trial dates and one appeal cannot simply be ignored. The added expense of a third trial date, one where he would have to come to court and testify yet again, is a factor that speaks against the ordering of a retrial.”

Justice Nakatsuru noted the “irony” of ordering a retrial, adding to the provincial court’s heavy dockets. “Significant court resources have already been consumed on a minor speeding ticket. The ends of justice would not be served by expending even more valuable court time or resources.”

The appeal was allowed and an acquittal entered.

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