MONTREAL — The Montreal police officer who was first on the scene in the slaying of a woman in 2012 says he's outraged that proceedings against the woman's husband aren't going ahead due to the long delay in bringing the case to trial.
On Thursday, a Quebec Superior Court judge ruled that Sivaloganathan Thanabalasingam would not be tried for the death of his wife Anuja Baskaran because too much time had passed since his arrest on the allegation against him.
Thanabalasingam, now 31, was arrested in August 2012 and spent 56 months in jail without a trial, which is almost double the ceiling set out in a Supreme Court ruling referred to as the "Jordan decision."
His is the first murder charge in Quebec to be placed under a stay of proceedings since the high court decision was delivered last summer. The ruling set a deadline of up to 30 months in superior courts and 18 months for cases at the provincial level.
"I'm outraged," said Montreal police officer Hugues Olivier. "It doesn't make sense."
Olivier was first to arrive on the scene where Baskaran, 21, was found in her Montreal home with her throat slit. Thanabalasingam, her husband, was arrested soon after.
In a phone interview, Olivier told The Canadian Press the police investigation had been properly done and there was "nothing especially complex" about the case that would justify a lengthy delay.
He was asked to testify at the preliminary inquiry in 2014 and remembers it being fairly brief.
"I've seen some messes in my life but...if you were to ask me to testify without notes, I'd easily be able to do it," said the 18-year veteran of the force.
He said he rarely comments publicly on cases but is making an exception because he's so angry.
"I can still see it," he said, referring to the crime scene. "And he's getting off (without a trial)."
Thanabalasingam's lawyer, Joseph La Leggia, would not discuss the arguments that led to his client's release.
He pointed out that cases aren't automatically dismissed after 30 months and each is judged on its own circumstances.
The initial trial date proposed by the court was February 2018, later changed to April 2017, he said.
La Leggia said he understand that some Quebecers are shocked at the ruling.
"I did the work I had to do as a defence lawyer," he said. "I represented the best interests of my client."
The Crown prosecutor's office refused to comment on the reasons why the case wasn't proceeded with, but indicated it was considering an appeal of the decision.
On Friday, the Quebec Bar Association said it opposed the stay of proceedings.
"The Quebec Bar Association feels the present situation cannot last and judges must be named in order to remedy the delays in our court systems," said Claudia Premont, the association's president.
Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press