The Right to a Speedy Trial: A Canadian Perspective

The issue of when does a lack of speedy trial is not litigated often, but it does occur. Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned  a defendant’s drug possession and trafficking conviction because he had been made to wait too long for his trial. The defendant  had waited three years before his three day trial was held, leading the Supreme Court  to the conclusion that he was denied the right to be tried within a reasonable time in violation of s.11 of the Canadian Chart of Rights and Freedom.

Justice Michael Moldaver, writing for the court, stated that, in considering a legal case, “courts must be careful not to miss the forest for the trees,” and that “[l]ooking at this forest – that is, the overal delay in a case of moderate complexity – [he is] satisfied that the delay was unreasonable.” Adding to the courts rationale was the fact that the defendant  had taken “proactive steps…to have his case tried as soon as possible.”

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