When this incident first took place and the three Tisdale men were charged with sexually assaulting a twelve year old girl, my wife made me promise not to get involved and not to do a story on it, because it really is not the sort of thing that we have reported on in Ensign and since it was before the courts, there was really little to say about it. That was almost five full years ago and really nothing much has changed. One of the defendants was found guilty and was penalised for his guilt and the other two were tried and acquitted, but the crown appealed the verdict and won their appeal thus leading to a retrial of one of the men this week and the other will be held in the fall.
I really don't want to deal with the specifics of the case, but rather what really concerns me are the principles involved in delaying and dragging out the whole process in courts. But there is one specific that I can not ignore and that one thing is what prompted me to begin this story. On the front page of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix today, on the left hand side of the front page there was a small headline "Teenager breaks down in trial." That line brought moisture to my eyes as I recalled this morning on CBC radio the voice of the defence council, as she said that her client has been serving conditions of probation, as this ordeal has stretched out for so long. Certainly, I am not callously disregarding the disruption in his life, but think what it must be like for this seventeen year old woman.
She was a mere twelve year old girl when she experience a traumatic event involving three men in their mid twenties. She had to give her story to the police, repeat it for the prosecutors several times, do so in preliminary hearings, recite the events of that night in open court in two trials, now once again, in a repeat trial and she still has to go through it all again when the last defendant comes before the court for a retrial this coming fall. I ask you, where is the justice in all that?
Let us step aside from this case for the moment and consider the process that is abusing this girl time after time. How often do we see victims and the accused alike, dragged into court to settle a crime of some kind and while so doing, what happens to them is in itself a sort of crime. It is understandable for a court proceeding to take a few weeks, or a month or so, to be prepared but is five years reasonable? Are we not spending enough money as a society to see that timely justice is being carried out, are there not enough prosecutors, investigative officers, judges and courtrooms to look after the relatively low rate of crime in our society?
I believe that we need an addition to the charter of rights that will somehow make the carriage of justice a priority, that demands timeliness and when the crown drags its feet, with victims being unable to separate themselves from the trauma and the accused unable to either be convicted, or clear themselves of the charges, then the whole matter must be set aside, for indeed, delayed prolonged court proceedings are themselves a crime and those officials who allow such things to happen, need to be held accountable for their crime of delaying the process.
Getting back to this case now before the court in Melfort. If the defendant is acquitted for a second time, and there is a strong likelihood that this will be the result, as the defence felt the crown's case so weak that they did not bother to call any witnesses in the trial. If the defendant is once again acquitted and that young woman has been forced to go through this ordeal yet one more time, should there not be some serious consequence for the decision makers in the Crown prosecutors office for what they have done, by appealing a case and losing a second time. Not only that, if this case is acquitted, should not the public, on behalf of that teenage girl, demand that the Crown stay its next trial, which is just as unlikely of getting a conviction?