Newfoundland Court of Appeal overturns 2019 decision to stay fraud charges against former coast guard managers

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The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal has overturned a 2019 decision to stay charges against two former employees of the Canadian Coast Guard.

Brian Stone and Kevin Barnes, both then senior managers with the coast guard, were accused of using more than $170,000 of Canadian Coast Guard funds to purchase components used in a maritime tracking technology they developed together. Stone and Barnes eventually sold the technology back to the coast guard at a profit via a company they’d incorporated.

The managers were charged with fraud over $5,000 and breach of trust in May 2015.

Their trial date was pushed to 2019 and the defendants successfully challenged that the delay of 53 months and 17 days violated their right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be granted a trial within 30 months of being charged.

On Monday, a decision filed at the Court of Appeal said the trial judge at the time “erred in applying the principles of law relevant to entering a stay of proceedings due to delay.”

The court decision shared that Stone and Barnes wanted information on the hard drives of their coast guard computers as part of their defence, but didn’t file an application to have the information disclosed in a timely manner, and delayed their trial unnecessarily. 

“In short, there was ample opportunity from when the charges were laid for the defendants to obtain the additional information they sought in time to be prepared for trial on June 29, 2018,” the decision read.

“However, they failed to act in a timely way, in fact, showing marked indifference toward the passage of time.”

CBC reported that “the appeal judges argued that Stone and Barnes benefited from the delay to file the applications for disclosure, and, as a result, reduced the amount of time that applied to the 30 month deadline under the Charter. The decision also found that 11 months of the delay were a result of Stone changing lawyers and Barnes’s lawyer being unavailable.”

In all, the Court of Appeal found, the total delay of 53 months and 17 days could be reduced to just 27 months, “which is less than the presumptive ceiling of 30 months delay.”

It’s not yet clear whether Stone and Barnes will go to trial on the charges following the appeal decision.

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