After 13 months of court hearings, motions, a constitutional challenge and appeals, the province has withdrawn several COVID tickets, including the one for $580.50 at the heart of it all.
Two tickets issued against His Tabernacle Church and several of its members for violating the Emergency Measures Act and for wilfully obstructing a peace officer were withdrawn by the province.
Lead pastor Phillip Hutchings pleaded not guilty to contravening COVID-19 rules in October of last year.
"We're certainly happy with with the result," said Jonathan Martin, lawyer for His Tabernacle Church.
Department of Justice spokesperson Geoffrey Downey said the tickets were withdrawn because "the Crown determined the evidence no longer provided a reasonable prospect of conviction."
Downey did not say what, if anything, changed about the evidence and why this decision was made now.
This is not the end of all legal issues involving the province and the church.
Hutchings and the church are still facing a contempt-of-court allegation for breaking a court order to follow COVID-19 rules in December, 2021, Martin said.
Tickets, broken promises, a week in jail
On Oct. 6, 2021, provincial peace officers issued a ticket against the church. That day, worshippers were gathered indoors, some without masks, at a time when masks and physical distancing were mandatory and faith-based gatherings were linked to 10 per cent of the province's total COVID-19 transmission.
The ticket was issued under the mandatory order, which was lifted in March of this year.
The Crown asked a judge to make an order preventing the church from breaking the rules while they challenged the fine.
Hutchings then signed a binding document agreeing to follow the rules. A few days later, he held what he called a "packed service" indoors on Oct. 10, 2021.
As a result, Hutchings was arrested and put in jail for breaking his promises and effectively being in contempt of court.
He was released seven days later after making another promise to abide by court conditions and admitting to being in contempt.
On Dec. 7, Hutchings was again accused of contempt of court for holding services in a tent. He is challenging this second allegation of contempt, arguing that a tent is not considered an indoor space, therefore he did not break the conditions.
The next hearing for that case is scheduled for Dec. 20, 2022.