Laying charges takes time, resulting optics unfortunate

Jan 7, 2014 By Matthew Friedberg
Sometimes criminal charges take a long time to be laid and that delay can be caused by a number of factors, Toronto criminal lawyer Matthew Friedberg tells SunNews.

And, he adds, the delay can create unfortunate optics in higher-profile incidents.

The laying of five-month-old assault charges against three Laval University football players only two days after they won the national championship in November has caused controversy due to the important roles the players had on the team, according to the Toronto Sun.

Ottawa-born quarterback Alex Skinner, 21, Quebec City running back Michel Savard, 23, and 26-year-old wide receiver Artchill Monney of Paris face charges of assault and assault causing bodily harm after an alleged disagreement inside a bar in June led to a fight in the parking lot, according to the Sun.

An off-duty policeman suffered a serious jaw injury and two women were also injured.

"I guess anything is possible," Friedberg, partner at Caramanna Friedberg LLP, tells SunNews of the insinuation that the charges only came after the championship to protect the team's chances at winning. "From what I understand there were a lot of factors that went into the delay - summer vacation and witnesses being interviewed. There was a potential conflict of interest and they moved it to a different city and prosecutor to review the case.

"Anytime you have somebody involved in the criminal justice system as a witness or accused, it’s not unusual to bring in out-of-town judges or out-of-town prosecutors," says Friedberg. "In this case obviously someone made the decision to transfer the file to another town where the off-duty officer wasn’t known."

Friedberg says it's important to balance high-profile cases with care to make sure swift action is taken, but not at the cost of the judicial system and the need for a fair trial.

"You want to act swiftly and on the other you want to act judicially," says Friedberg. "It may actually slow the process down," for it to be out in the public sphere. "Authorities may want to provide a little more attention to things to make sure there is the appearance of fairness.

"Police investigations take time and it’s not unusual for there to be a delay. These things do take time and they often don’t just happen over night. I believe they’ll be given a fair hearing and fair trial."