Calling the situation “shocking” and a “travesty,” a Kamloops judge on Monday scolded lawyers and the court system after learning a young First Nations man has been in jail more than seven months without an arraignment.
Provincial court Judge Chris Cleaveley’s remarks came at the conclusion of the 22-year-old man’s bail hearing on sexual allegations covering a period beginning in 2015 and wrapping up in May of last year, when he was arrested.
The man cannot be named in print due to a publication ban protecting the identities of his alleged victims. He is facing charges of sexual assault, sexual interference of a person under 16, child luring and invitation to sexual touching.
Court heard one set of allegations deal with a girl the man began dating in 2015. At the time, she was 13 and he was 19.
The girl told police the man beat her and forced sex on her multiple times over a period of years. Crown prosecutor Andrew Duncan said the man asked the teen to tell mutual friends she was 16, the age of consent, implying he was aware the relationship was illegal.
“This pattern of manipulative behaviour and forced sex was a part of this relationship,” Duncan said.
Another set of allegations the man is facing deal with a 14-year-old girl he never met in person, but communicated with through Facebook Messenger and Snapchat, inviting her to meet for sexual encounters and offering to send a taxi to pick her up.
The girl’s mother found the conversations and went to police.
The two sets of charges were laid last year — the first in late May and the second in June. The man was arrested on May 30.
In B.C., arraignment hearings generally take place within a month or two of charges being laid. Arraignments are short hearings at which an accused person indicates how they wish to proceed in court — by pleading guilty or beginning the process of proceeding to trial.
Arraignments start the ball rolling on a series of additional procedural hearings, depending on the charges and how they are being prosecuted.
Because the 22-year-old man has not been arraigned, justice officials have no way of knowing how he wishes to plead. If he intends to proceed to trial, a preliminary inquiry would likely be required — which necessitates the scheduling of valuable court time that is generally spoken for months ahead of time. Because he has not been arraigned, no preliminary inquiry has been scheduled.
“This is a bit of a travesty,” Cleaveley said after learning of the situation. “I can’t recall ever seeing a case like this.”
Calling the situation “shocking,” Cleaveley agreed to grant the accused bail on a number of strict conditions, but not before laying into Duncan and defence lawyer Dustin Gagnon.
“This is a situation that ought not to have happened,” he said. “The court, Crown and the defence should have done something sooner about the arraignment process.”
At the conclusion of the bail hearing, the man’s arraignment was scheduled for Jan. 17.