'There's something wrong with the justice system,' says officer who responded to dropped murder case
A Montreal police officer says he has serious doubts about the justice system after a man accused of murder will go free because his case took too long to make it before the courts.
In 2012, Hugues Olivier was the first officer to arrive at the murder scene of Anuja Baskaran, a 21-year-old Ahuntsic woman.
Police arrested Sivaloganathan Thanabalasingam, her husband, and he was charged with second-degree murder in August of that year.
"I just can't believe it," said OIivier, after hearing the news that Thanabalasingam would be released without a trial.
"I think there's something wrong with the justice system, that a guy who's accused of killing his wife can go around and walk free while the family of the victim still feels the pain."
On Thursday, a judge ruled that Thanabalasingam's case should be stayed because he had waited beyond the accepted time limit for a criminal trial to begin.
According to the Jordan ruling, provincial court cases must now be completed within 18 months, and Superior Court cases must now make it through the trial process within 30 months.
After 56 months of detention, Thanabalasingam's trial was set to begin Monday.
'We did our job'
"I've been a police officer for 18 years, and if I had known that things like that could happen, I think I would have made another career choice," said Olivier.
He told the Canadian Press he was "outraged" at the news, and that he doesn't know of any reason why the case would have been subject to such a lengthy delay.
"I know that we did our job and he's walking free today," he said.
This is the first time an accused murderer in Quebec has seen charges stayed because of the Jordan ruling.
"Because it is such an exceptional situation, we are asking the justice minister to look at the use of the notwithstanding clause," said Véronique Hivon, the Parti Québécois justice critic.
The notwithstanding clause, also known as Section 33 of the Constitution, allows provincial legislatures to pass laws that override parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In this case, it would be invoked to override section 11b, which holds that anyone accused of a crime "be tried within a reasonable time."
Quebec Bar calls for action
The Quebec Bar Association joined the call for action Friday, asking for more judges to be appointed as soon as possible in order to address the delays.
"The Quebec Bar feels that the current situation can no longer continue and that all judges must be appointed in order to remedy the delays of our courts," said association president Claudia Prémont.
The Quebec Crown prosecutor's office told the Canadian Press that it would not comment on the stay of proceedings for Thanabalasingam.