Editorial: Photocopying shouldn’t be so hard

How hard can it be to photocopy documents?

Apparently, it’s hard work at some Crown offices. In the case of Elliott Gerstein, it means a fraud case involving almost $8 million won’t go ahead. Despite criminal charges dating back to December 2007, his case was still before the court this month. After calculating the Crown and institutional delay at more than three years, Superior Court Justice Michael Quigley stayed the charges on March 13.

A big roadblock in the case was providing disclosure of roughly 60 boxes of documentary material belonging to one of the complainants, Grover Realty. Well before a preliminary inquiry was to begin in 2009, defence lawyer Devin Bains inquired about the boxes. Police and Crown lawyers offered various explanations for the lack of disclosure, which wasn’t complete until March 2010. At various points, they said the materials weren’t disclosure and weren’t relevant to the case against Gerstein. At other times, they blamed resource limitations, including the fact there was apparently only one clerk who could copy and scan the paper in the boxes. In addition, they suggested the defence would have to pay for the copying, a position they eventually relented on.

So Gerstein may be innocent, but we’ll never know for sure without the now-abandoned trial. In the meantime, the case sheds light on the continuing difficulties in investigating and prosecuting fraud cases as well as the ongoing delays in disclosing evidence. Fraud cases are complex and resource-intensive, but it’s the Crown’s job to make sure it has the resources to carry them out in a timely manner. Cases such as these show the continuing gaps in ensuring justice for fraud victims.

In addition, the government has touted its progress in reducing disclosure delays in recent years. In fact, that was a key aspect of the Justice on Target project aimed at reducing unnecessary court appearances and speeding up criminal matters. Obviously, the government has more work to do on that score.
Glenn Kauth

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