Accused teacher asks for stay of charges
Delay of 18 months “a fact we have to accept,” Crown says
A teacher accused of sexual assault, and whose life has been frozen for a year and a half by delays in his trial, has applied to have the charge he faces stayed.
David Wiseman was charged with sexual assault against a student in April 2004, while he was employed as a teacher at the Arctic College campus in Cambridge Bay. Following the charge he lost his job after four years in the community. Unable to find other work and shunned by the community, he returned to Nova Scotia.
At a hearing in Iqaluit on Tuesday, defence lawyer Sue Cooper said the delays could violate her client’s right to be tried within a reasonable length of time. His trial has been adjourned by the circuit court five times.
She also said “irreparable harm” had been done to her client’s case because the Crown failed to disclose information about two witnesses. One was said to be present in the classroom, while the other worked in the health and social services office the complainant entered after the alleged assault occurred. RCMP interviewed both witnesses.
Some information about the witnesses was not released until about a year after legal proceeding began, such as a page of notes from an RCMP interview with one witness, submitted to court in March 2005.
Now both witnesses have moved south and could be difficult to locate. Cooper said both could provide valuable evidence for her client’s case.
“The result is this case is prejudiced.”
“A statement from a key witness was in the hands of the RCMP for about a year. With the greatest of respect, I think that’s something most members of society would have concerns about.”
She added that Wiseman is accused of “sexual touching” while the female complainant was clothed, a less serious charge compared to other sexual assault cases.
Crown lawyer Christine Gagnon said RCMP didn’t inform the Crown about the witnesses until shortly before they had made their disclosures. The RCMP provided no explanation for why there were no notes for the other witness, she said.
As for the time delays, she said, “It’s a fact we have to accept.”
Gagnon said neither witness was “key” to the trial. “It’s collateral information,” she said.
She acknowledged that, as more time passes, the risk of prejudice grows. Wiseman’s next court appearance is scheduled for Nov 7 in Cambridge Bay.
Justice Earl Johnson said he expected to deliver his judgment on the stay of proceedings well before that date.