Calling it “an unusually long time to bring a case to trial,” a provincial court judge tossed out charges Tuesday against three Lower Mainland hunters alleged to have used deer as target practice.
The charges stem from events in November 2010. Charges weren’t laid until August 2011 and the trial was delayed nearly a year after an adjournment by the Crown last December.
A four-day trial was otherwise set to start this week.
An executive with Kamloops Fish and Game Club said the unproven accusations are disturbing and he’s disappointed it didn’t go to trial.
“I’m a firm believer if you don’t eat it, don’t shoot,” said Don Trethewey.
“It surprises me anyone who had gone to the trouble of getting a hunting licence would do something like that.”
None of the allegations by the Crown were proven in court.
Paramjit Singh Chahal, his 23-year-old son Sukhraj Singh Chahal, and Sukhvinder Singh Kalkat together were charged with 16 counts under the Wildlife Act and Firearm Act. Those charges were stayed and the men will not face trial.
The Crown said three mule deer were shot on Nov. 12, 2010, at OK Ranch, in the South Cariboo about 50 kilometres west of Clinton.
Defence lawyer Mark Rowan argued charges should be stayed, saying an unreasonable delay in a trial is a breach of the three men’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Harrison agreed, ruling the delay breached the three men’s Charter rights, including right to a fair trial. The defence was not responsible for any of the delays.
“This is clearly the result of (a lack of) institutional resources,” Harrison said in his judgment.
“There is great demand for court time in all three divisions and lists are frequently overbooked.”
The first trial date, in December last year, was adjourned until this month after a conservation officer witness needed heart surgery. While he was back on desk duty by February, no efforts were made to speed the trial date.
On Monday, prosecutor Joel Gold outlined Crown allegations that the three hunters, along with two children aged 12 or 13, drove up and down High Bar Road in a pickup.
Gold said he would call evidence that conservation officers, who were tipped off, watched the group stop their pickup several times, getting out to shoot and kill three deer standing among a large group browsing on the hill.
Only one of the three men had a limited-entry tag to take an antlerless mule deer during that season.
Conservation officers alleged they saw two more deer shot and left where they fell, including one shot by Kalkat’s 13-year-old son, who had no hunting licence, the Crown alleged.
Defence lawyer Rowan made an application under the Charter to have the charges stayed based on an unreasonable delay that hurt his clients’ reputation, caused them stress and lessened their memories in preparation for trial.
Gold told reporters outside the courtroom there are delays in the system.
“For the Crown it’s a reminder we have to be vigilant on our part to bring things to trial in a timely manner. . . . We’re limited by the same lack of resources.”
Trethewey said he’s concerned not only as a lifelong hunter but as a citizen, about court delays.
“It’s not just wildlife issues, it’s our whole justice system.”