A Cape Breton man charged in connection with the hit-and-run death of a young girl two years ago has pleaded not guilty.
Ten-year-old Talia Forrest was riding her bike on Black Rock Road in Big Bras d'Or, N.S., when she was struck by an SUV in July 2019.
Colin Hugh Tweedie, formerly of Victoria County and now living in Halifax, faces four charges, including impaired driving causing death and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.
Tweedie was scheduled to appear in Sydney Supreme Court on Tuesday, but missed the appearance due to a misunderstanding by his lawyer.
He appeared in court by video from Halifax on Wednesday morning. His lawyer, Tony Mosvik, spoke on his behalf, formally entering not guilty pleas and electing trial by Supreme Court judge alone.
The trial is scheduled for Feb. 1 to Feb. 14. Both sides plan to call a number of expert and civilian witnesses.
"It's going to be a fairly lengthy trial," said Crown attorney John MacDonald.
Members of Talia's family have expressed frustration with the length of time it has taken to bring the case to trial, and the fact that Tweedie has only appeared in court in person once since being charged in August 2019.
"We want justice for Talia," the girl's aunt Alice Williams said on Tuesday. "Her mother is suffering ... and he's out walking the streets."
Tweedie was previously released from custody on conditions and has been working in Halifax.
A 2016 Supreme Court of Canada ruling — the so-called Jordan decision — sets a limit of 30 months between laying charges and the actual or anticipated end of trial.
The February trial dates, which were set in the summer of 2020, just narrowly come in under the 30-month limit.
"The difficulty is when you're looking for large blocks of trial time, it takes longer to find those large blocks," said MacDonald.
"In this case, the courts went out of their way to accommodate and in fact have provided us with a supernumerary judge from outside of Cape Breton in order to have the matter done in as quick a time as possible."
A supernumerary judge is one who has retired from the bench on a full-time basis, but who continues to work part-time.
Justice Mona Lynch of Halifax will preside over Tweedie's trial.
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