In rare criminal case award, government must pay record $580K to defense lawyers over mistrial

In a ruling seldom seen in a criminal case, a Canadian judge has ordered the government to pay a record $580,000 to criminal defense lawyers after a mistrial.

The Tuesday award in an Ontario Superior Court kidnapping case is intended to cover the entire cost to the defense of the now-concluded trial and is the largest in Canadian criminal court history, reports the Legal Feeds blog of the Canadian Lawyer and Law Times.

The trial had lasted nearly a month before the Judge Antonio Skarica declared a mistrial in February due to a prosecution failure to provide timely information to the defense about evidence in the case.

“The negligence of the prosecution resulted in the three accused, through no fault of their own, incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs that could have been avoided had the prosecution provided timely disclosure as they were obligated to do,” wrote the judge in his ruling.

A new trial is scheduled for September for Asogian Gunalingam, 32, Jora Jassal, 30, and Jaswinder Singh, 29. They are accused of abducting and brutally assaulting a woman over a three-day period in 2011 as they attempted to extort money from her, before she was rescued by police, reports the Toronto Sun.

At issue in the mistrial were a missing wallet and cellphone records. The wallet, which belonged to one of the defendants and contained his identification, police said, allegedly was found in a pair of pants seized after his arrest–along with a blank check and identification that belonged to the victim. However, police apparently lost the wallet at some point, but did not report this to the government, the two articles explain. Meanwhile, the defense learned only after trial was well underway that the government had obtained access to cellphone records.

“I think it’s going to send shock waves through the legal community, especially in the way that Crowns handle disclosure,” attorney Deepak Paradkar, who represents Jassal, told Legal Feeds, referring to government prosecutors. “Defense lawyers are now going to be pretty diligent in making sure they have what they should.”

A spokesman for the attorney general’s office told the Sun it is reviewing the decision.

Hat tip: Toronto Star

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