Judge issues stay in trial of former Sherwood Park teacher accused of sex offences

An Alberta judge has issued a stay in the case of a former teacher accused of sexual offences against a student, ruling that prosecutors breached his right to a timely trial.

Graeme Patrick Forsyth, who was a teacher in the Edmonton area, was charged in July 2017 with sexual interference, sexual exploitation, invitation to sexual touching and sexual assault.

A Supreme Court ruling in 2016, often referred to as the Jordan decision, established that trials must be heard no later than 30 months after charges are laid in cases before a provincial superior court.

In a decision released Tuesday citing the Jordan decision, Justice Doreen Sulyma of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta said the anticipated delay to the end of Forsyth’s trial is more than 31 months.

“The failure of the Crown in handling this case has led to a violation of Mr. Forsyth’s charter rights,” said the decision.

“In this case, the constituent parts of the Crown have each failed in their respective duties to bring Mr. Forsyth to trial within a reasonable time.”

‘Large amount of evidence’ on eve of trial

Forsyth’s trial was initially scheduled for September 2018 but was delayed until later this month. The court granted the adjournment application because Forsyth’s defence received a large amount of evidence from the Crown on the eve of trial.

Graeme Patrick Forsyth taught at Bev Facey high school in Sherwood Park. (Bev Facey Community High School)

The Crown argued that the Jordan decision did not apply because new charges of online luring of a child and making child pornography from evidence found in the complainant’s cellphone should have restarted the clock.

But the judge said “this was a single proceeding and, therefore, the Jordan clock remains as beginning at the date of the first indictment.”

“This is clear systemic delay and failing of the Crown,” Sulyma wrote in her decision.

“Mr. Forsyth continues to be held under the supervision of the court, awaiting the outcome of this second scheduled trial date.”

In Canada, a stay means charges can be reactivated by the Crown within one year.

Forsyth was a teacher at Bev Facey Community High School in Sherwood Park, The school falls under the jurisdiction of Elk Island Public Schools.

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