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When someone is charged with a crime, there needs to be sufficient evidence supporting the charge or the charges will be dismissed. Not only does this serve to free up judges from hearing pointless cases, but it also protects Ontarians from being charged with crimes based on mere speculation or inference. Since there is tremendous negative publicity that comes with even an allegation of wrongdoing, it is important that police and the Crown respect those rights, charge only those for whom there is credible evidence to do so and have charges dropped against those unnecessarily charged.
Another option is to have charges stayed. When charges are stayed, it means that the charges will be removed from an individual’s record, but that the Crown has one year to reactivate the charges should they find the necessary evidence to do so. For one man facing charges of accessory after the fact to manslaughter, accessory to discharging a firearm and accessory to committing aggravated assault, the fact that the Crown has stayed his charges indicates that they don’t have enough evidence for a conviction.
According to the Ministry of the Attorney General, most cases of stayed charges are due to the Crown’s inability to convict or if a conviction is not in the public interest. While there has been no word on why exactly the Crown has taken the charges off the books, the fact that the charges had previously been downgraded may demonstrate a lack of confidence in the Crown’s ability to prosecute.
While the Crown has done the right thing by staying the charges in this case, it is not always so prudent. When charged with a violent crime, a defendant will likely need the help of a lawyer to challenge the Crown’s evidence and ask for the charges to be dismissed.
Source: The Canadian Press, “Charges stayed in Anthony Smith death,” Jan. 28, 2014