Crown in Ibrahim Ali murder case says defence to blame for trial delays

The defence attorney for a Syrian national convicted of murdering a 13-year-old B.C. girl has applied to have the verdict tossed due to delays — but the Crown is arguing setbacks are the fault of the defence and 'exceptional events.'

Crown in Ibrahim Ali murder case says defence to blame for trial delays
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Justice for the family of a 13-year-old Burnaby, B.C. girl who was brutally murdered in 2017 may be short-lived as the defence attorney for her killer has applied for the guilty verdict to be overturned due to excessive delays during the case.

Last December, Ibrahim Ali, a Syrian national, was convicted for the first-degree murder of the girl whose identity remains protected by a publication ban.

The jury of the case accepted the prosecution's arguments that Ali strangled the life out of the child after brutally sexually assaulting her in Burnaby Central Park, just months after he had arrived in Canada as a single, military-aged Syrian refugee.

The family of the victim waited nearly six long years for what ended up being an eight-month trial. The case had many pre-trial and in-trial delays along the way.

It’s for that reason Ali’s defence attorneys filed a “Jordan application” which seeks to stay the proceedings for failure to go to trial within a 30-month period.

If the application is successful, Ali’s guilty verdict will be overturned; he will not be sentenced for the crime and instead will be set free.

As reported by Burnaby Now, last week defence attorney Kevin McCullough established that the 63 months from Ali's arrest in September 2018 to the end of his trial is "more than twice as long as the 30-month ceiling set by the Supreme Court of Canada for cases in superior courts."

McCullough proceeded to take the court through thousands of pages of documents to support the argument that the delays totalled at least 52 months and that for the majority of those months, the defence was not to blame.

"In this case, the defence at all times was seeking to have the trial sooner rather than later, at all times was pressing for trial," said McCullough.

In yesterday’s hearing, Crown lawyer Daniel Porte challenged the defence's argument by submitting that the vast majority of the delays were due to the defence or “exceptional events” such as the declared COVID-19 pandemic.

"The steady and unrelenting stream of defence applications, which the applicant continued to file right up to the waning days of the trial could only ever have resulted in a very lengthy trial process," he said. He added that taking this into consideration by subtracting such delays brings the delays to 25 months, which is within the 30-month “Jordan decision” threshold.

“The majority of the time taken for the hearing of this matter is attributable to defence delay and discrete events," Porte said, "and the actions of defense counsel have been largely antithetical to their duties."

In addition to COVID-19, the trial proceedings were paused by a broad range of delays, including Ali’s complaints of being ill, his lawyers' requests to have him assessed for fitness to stand trial, death threats being made to his lawyer and even a former expert witness for the defence, the late Dr. Tracy Pickett, passing away unexpectedly before finishing cross-examination.

Crown prosecutors are expected to continue arguments aiming to have the defence's application dismissed this week.

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