R. v. Askov, [1990] 2 S.C.R. 1199

The appellants, who were charged with conspiracy to commit extortion, as well as a number of firearms offenses, argued that a two-year delay in bringing their case to trial had violated their right to be tried within a reasonable time under Section 11(b) of the Charter.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously in favour of the Appellants, stating that institutional delay and backlog could not be used as an excuse to circumvent the legal rights contained within the Charter. This resulted in thousands of criminal charges being stayed, and served as a wake up call to the Crown that due to the serious ramifications of a criminal charge on the life of an accused, charges must be dealt with and decided quickly and expediently. Otherwise, the process simply becomes the punishment, potentially interrupting the lives and careers of innocent individuals.

It is important to note that the principles expressed in Askov do not apply to administrative proceedings, such as Human Rights Tribunals, where multi-year backlogs still drain the resources and morale of many respondents, despite the often-questionable nature of the accusations against them.

The principles articulated in Askov were revisited and somewhat revised in the 1992 case of R. v. Morin.

Decided by the Supreme Court of Canada on October 18, 1990
Click here for the full text of the decision

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Filed under Section 11: Legal Rights, Section 11(b): Trial Within Reasonable Time

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