New trial for man unaware his guilty pleas would stop Charter argument: B.C. court

VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s Court of Appeal has overturned guilty pleas and ordered a new trial for a man who it says was unaware the pleas would prevent him from claiming his Charter rights were violated over the time it took to get him to trial.

Beverley Keith Klassen was arrested in Surrey, B.C., in August 2016 and pleaded guilty to drug trafficking midway through a trial, while his female co-accused was later found guilty.

However, the judge stayed the charges against the woman because her case wasn’t brought to trial in what Canada’s highest court has determined is a reasonable time.

On appeal, Klassen’s lawyer asked the court to set aside the guilty pleas because the man's first lawyer didn’t tell him the pleas would forbid him from arguing his Charter rights were violated over delays in getting his case to trial.

In a unanimous decision from a panel of three judges, the court ruled that had Klassen been “armed with the proper information he would not have pleaded guilty,” and the outcome for him would likely have been different.

Appeal Court Justice Gail Dickson said in a ruling posted Monday that allowing Klassen's pleas to stand would amount to a miscarriage of justice.

Dickson said that had the man been informed of the serious legal consequences of his guilty pleas, there is a reasonable possibility that he would have pleaded differently.

“It follows that he has demonstrated subjective prejudice and that allowing his guilty pleas to stand would amount to a miscarriage of justice,” the ruling said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2023.

The Canadian Press