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Judge orders new trial for anti-poverty activists

By: Heidi Ulrichsen - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Jun 27, 2014 - 9:13 AM |
Members of the S-CAP 11 and their supporters celebrate Nov. 12, 2013 after charges against all of the group's members are dropped. A judge has ordered a new trial for some of the defendants. File photo.

Members of the S-CAP 11 and their supporters celebrate Nov. 12, 2013 after charges against all of the group's members are dropped. A judge has ordered a new trial for some of the defendants. File photo.

Nine of 11 original defendants to go back to court

Stating a justice of the peace made “errors in law” in acquitting them last year, Justice Martin Lambert has granted the crown's request for a new trial for nine anti-poverty activists charged with trespassing in 2012. 

But the acquittal of two other anti-poverty activists also charged with trespassing in the same incident was upheld by the judge.

The nine remaining defendants are due to appear in court once again July 28 at 10 a.m. in the Tom Davies Square council chambers, at which time a new trial date is expected to be set.

The incident which sparked the charges was a Nov. 9, 2012 sit-in at former Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci's office by members of the Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (S-CAP).

The group was attempting to draw attention to cuts to a social assistance program called the Community Maintenance and Startup Fund. 

A trial was held last fall, but charges against the defendants, who dubbed themselves the S-CAP 11, were dropped by Justice of the Peace Diane Lafleur for a number of technical reasons.

The crown appealed the decision.

Charges against two of the defendants — Robert Dey and Martin Boucher — were dropped because Assistant Crown Attorney Peter Willis failed to call a witness that could testify about their activities.

Willis has asked Lafleur to adjourn the trial until he could call this witness, but she denied the request.

Assistant Crown Attorney Martin Tooke, who has since taken over the case from Willis, argued during an appeal hearing last month the justice of the peace should have granted the adjournment.

However, in rendering his decision on the appeal request June 26, Lambert said he agrees with Lafleur's original verdict on the matter, saying he was “satisfied she acted judicially.”

It was because witnesses at the trial hadn't formally identified the jurisdiction in which the incident occurred that Lafleur dropped charges against the remaining defendants — Clarissa Lassaline, Phillip Marsh, Gary Kinsman, Anna Harbulik, Brendan Lehman, Thomas Sutton, Pam Charron, Danielle Beaulieu and David Dubois.

During the May appeal hearing, Tooke argued that even though none of the witnesses specifically said the incident happened in Sudbury, it should have been implied by the fact it happened at Bartolucci's office.

Lambert said he agreed with this argument, and reversed the acquittals of Lassaline, Marsh, Kinsman, Harbulik, Lehman, Sutton, Charron and Beaulieu.

Defence council Don Kuyek had requested a stay of the charges, arguing that given the original incident occurred nearly two years ago, as well as the relatively minor nature of the charges, it wouldn't be in the public interest to continue.

The motion for the stay was denied, however, as Lambert said he believed it was in the public's interest to pursue the matter.

After rendering his decision, Lambert held a pre-trial with Kuyek and Tooke.

Speaking to Northern Life after the pre-trial, Kuyek said there's still a chance the S-CAP 11 could avoid a second trial, as the judge had some "strong opinions" as to how the matter should be resolved.

“We'll see what the crown does,” he said.

Dubois, one of the activists whose acquittal was overturned, said he's extremely disappointed by the result.

“The public's interest would not be served by this going forward,” he said. “That seemed to be pretty apparent ... Now we're looking at wasting incredible resources to bring it back to trial, two years later.”

Harbulik, whose acquittal was also overturned, echoed his comments.

“I would say that a new trial doesn't serve the interests of justice, and at this point, given all of the resources that have already been wasted and all of the resources that would be continued to be wasted if a new trial is granted, I feel like it's a really backwards decision.”

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Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

Staff Writer


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