Conviction appeal dismissed. Sentence appeal allowed in part along with a stay of a second breach of probation charge. The Crown tried to rely on the delays involved in obtaining a Gladue report to justify the post-verdict delay.
Following an afternoon of heavy drinking with her adult son and boyfriend, the complainant was seriously assaulted. She told first responders that her son was responsible. The son was charged. The mother testified for the Crown that her son attacked her and her boyfriend following an argument. Months later the trial resumed. This time the mother testified for the defence. She changed her testimony and said that it was her boyfriend, not her son, who attacked her.
The trial judge convicted her son for aggravated assault against his mother, assault causing bodily harm against the boyfriend and two counts of breach of probation. He was given a global sentenced of 30 months in custody. After considerable delays, the trial judge found the appellant guilty of aggravated assault against his mother, her boyfriend along with resisting arrest and two counts of breach of probation. Following 8.2 months of pretrial custody, he was sentenced to 21.8 months of incarceration.
The son appealed his convictions and sentence. However, the post-verdict delay was determined unacceptable to this Court. It took 14 months after conviction for the sentence to be imposed. This delay was not caused by ineffective judicial management. It was not caused by the appellant, nor was it caused directly by the actions of the prosecutor. It was caused by the lack of institutional resources to obtain a Gladue report. Immediately upon conviction, trial counsel obtained an order for a Gladue report from the trial judge. However, court administration services denied funding. Ultimately, the appellant, with the assistance of his counsel, chose to pay privately. The issue of post-verdict delay was addressed by this Court in R V Charley, 2019 ONCA 726 [“Charley”], where a presumptive ceiling of five months was set for the time from verdict to sentence.
In an attempt to justify the delay, the Crown alleged extraordinary circumstances because of the issues with the Gladue report and because the case was already in the system when Charley was decided. The Court does not accept that the circumstances are exceptional. It cannot be said that it is exceptional to require a Gladue report in the Algoma district where there is a large Indigenous population. Gladue reports were created in order to address systemic injustice that uniquely affects Indigenous offenders, and which leads to overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. A long delay undermines the purpose of the Gladue report by creating another level of unfairness. Moreover, to submit that the preparation of such a report is exceptional is untenable.
The appellant was entitled to a Gladue report, the trial judge ordered it, and subsequently relied on it. According to R v Jordan, 2016 SCC 27, the new framework, including the presumptive ceiling, applies to cases currently in the system, subject to qualifications but these qualifications do not apply in this matter. A 14-month delay was unreasonable and breached the appellant’s s 11(b) Charter rights.
A stay of a valid conviction would impact public confidence in the administration of justice. The possibility of vacating a valid conviction based on sentencing delay is “an unjustified windfall” for the accused (Betterman v Montana, 578 US, 136 S. Ct. 1609). The appropriate and just remedy here should target the sentence, not the conviction. The appellant was convicted of a violent offence against his mother in her home. It would bring the administration of justice into disrepute to stay the conviction. For the remedy to target the sentence, it must be based on and align with sentencing principles. The sentence is reduced by five months.