HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service will conduct a review of how it handles extradition cases after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the Crown took too long to bring an accused sex offender to trial.
The high court, in an oral decision delivered Monday, rejected the Crown’s appeal of a lower court decision that quashed all 17 sex offence convictions against a Nova Scotia man involving boys in the 1970s.
In December 2011, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal threw out the convictions against Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh on the grounds that a 14-year delay between the original allegations and the trial was too long.
MacIntosh was in India working as a consultant when the allegations first surfaced in 1995, but he wasn’t extradited to Canada until 2007, and his trial didn’t start until 2010.
In their request to the Supreme Court of Canada for an appeal, Nova Scotia prosecutors said the Appeal Court erred in its decision because it didn’t give enough weight to the public’s interest.
The appeal was heard Monday, but the high court settled the matter quickly with a rare oral judgment that concurred with the lower court.
Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry said the province’s internal review will also deal with the role of the federal government.
“An analysis has to be done of the Supreme Court decision, so I will read that and then I will talk with my federal counterparts in regards to this matter,” he said.
Martin Herschorn, director of Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service, said the review should be completed before the end of May.
“We are going to be looking at our processes with regard to cases that involve extradition to see whether we can better understand the delays that occurred … with a view to preventing things happening in future,” he said.
Asked whether the RCMP or the Crown was responsible for the delay, Herschorn said: “It lies with the Crown. We have an obligation under the Constitution to deal with cases as expeditiously as possible.”
MacIntosh, a former Cape Breton businessman, eventually faced two trials on the charges, each dealing with a separate group of complainants.
He was convicted of molesting four boys. The convictions included eight counts of indecent assault and nine counts of gross indecency.
When the convictions were overturned by Nova Scotia’s highest court, the senior Crown attorney handling the case, Jennifer MacLellan, said MacIntosh was responsible for the delays.
On Thursday, Herschorn said: “Those arguments have not found favour with the courts and we have to respect that outcome.”
One of MacIntosh’s defence lawyers, Brian Casey, said police and prosecutors had known where MacIntosh was living since 1995 and have since given no explanation why it took so long for them to get him before a trial judge.
“The court made it clear today that if there had been an explanation, that could be factored in the determination whether there was too much delay,” Casey said in an interview.
“There was very little on record to explain the long delay.”
Casey stressed that his client wasn’t trying to evade the authorities while living in India, adding that the police officer in charge of the case had MacIntosh’s address starting in February 1995.
As well, Casey said his client supplied his address and telephone number to the Canadian government.
“He wasn’t hiding at all,” Casey said, adding that MacIntosh was living within three blocks of the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, where he regularly went to renew his passport.
“His whereabouts were available on the Internet. He was living openly under his own name in India.”
MacIntosh spent a year in custody and another four years of house arrest, Casey said. He was released in December 2011 when the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal issued its ruling.