The court denied the request of entrepreneur Tony Accurso, who wanted to stay and postpone his fourth criminal trial due to the pandemic.
“The administration of justice is at stake,” said the judge of the Court of Quebec Mélanie Hébert, in her decision rendered Thursday.
She said she understood fears of contagion, but stressed that postponing too many trials pending improvement in the health situation could have a “devastating” effect on the entire system, as many more trials are pending.
“The practice of law, like any other profession or even any other activity like going to the grocery store, has its share of risks. But at the same time, we can’t stop everything, ”she said.
Specially equipped room
The trial which opened last week is taking place in a specially equipped room at the juvenile court, where 15 to 20 people crowd together depending on the day. Mr. Accurso’s lawyer, Me Marc Labelle, had asked for the suspension of the hearings because the situation seemed dangerous to him while the number of cases of COVID-19 infections continues to increase in Montreal. He considered the situation dangerous and feared a “catastrophe”.
“There shouldn’t be one catching it here,” he said.
However, a public health doctor came to confirm in court that the many protective measures put in place by the authorities, in particular the installation of plexiglass and the possibility of following the hearings by videoconference for certain stakeholders, made the place compliant. according to the requirements.
The passage of time does not help memory
The crown had opposed the postponement of the trial, which is to last three months and see about 70 witnesses. One of the prosecutors of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, Mr.e François Blanchette, had stressed that some of the offenses go back a dozen years already and that time is against the prosecution.
Witnesses have already died, and the memory of the facts does not improve over the years.
“Society also has the right to see the process move forward,” he said.
Tony Accurso, 69, is charged with fraud, forgery, breach of trust by a public official and conspiracy, following a Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigation into corruption at the Canada Revenue Agency. Two former officials, another entrepreneur and an accountant are co-accused with him.
The theory of the police is that he paid large sums to people who could allow his businesses to avoid paying their taxes.