An Update on Corporations and Unreasonable Trial Delay
Six months after the Supreme Court released its decision in R. v. Jordan rewriting the law governing pretrial delay, there are at least three decisions of the Ontario Court of Justice confirming that Jordan applies to the prosecution of corporations.
In R. v. Sterling Crane the corporate defendant was charged with offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (“OHSA”) arising from a critical injury in the workplace. Pretrial delay (between the laying of the information and the first date of the trial) was 24 months. The Court accepted the defendant’s submission that Jordan applied equally to individuals and corporations. However, it refused to stay the charges because of excessive delay on the basis of the “transitional exceptional circumstance” applicable to ongoing prosecutions commenced prior to the release of Jordan. In that context, the Court found significance with the fact that the defendant did not assert its s.11(b) rights prior to bringing its stay application.
Mississauga v. Uber Canada Inc. was a case in which the corporate defendant was charged with two offences contrary to the City’s public vehicle licensing by-law. The total pretrial delay was 24 months for the first charge and 26 for the second with no “defence” delay present. The Court accepted the applicability of Jordan despite the corporate personality of the defendant. It found that there were neither exceptional circumstances nor the transitional exceptional circumstance present justifying the delay and stayed the charges.
Last, in R. v. Live Nation Canada Inc. the corporate defendant was charged with a number of offences under the OHSA arising from a 2012 workplace fatality. The pretrial delay, net of defence delay, was approximately 44 months. The Court rejected the Crown’s submission that Jordan did not overturn R. v. CIP, which limited a corporate defendant’s access to relief from pretrial delay to situations wherein it could establish that the delay had caused actual prejudice to its fair trial interest. However, the Court refused to stay the charges on the basis of the transitional exceptional circumstance.
There are no reported cases in which the Ontario Court of Justice has distinguished the application of Jordan on the basis that the defendant before it is a corporation.