By The Canadian Press on April 21, 2017.
ANTIGONISH, N.S. – An “extremely serious” sexual assault case against a Nova Scotia professor has been tossed out due to unreasonable delays.
Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Patrick Murray stayed the proceedings against Behrang Foroughi-Mobarakeh, formerly of St. Francis Xavier University, after the case took three years to come to trial.
The judge blamed the delays in part on the RCMP’s failure to “act on a timely basis,” pointing out it took police two years to send evidence to a forensic lab.
The professor was arrested on March 31, 2014. He was charged the next day with sexual assault and released on a recognizance.
In March 2016, Antigonish police asked a forensic lab in Ottawa to test evidence seized from the home of Foroughi-Mobarakeh in March 2014, according to a statement of facts included in Murray’s decision.
The delay led to an adjournment of the trial set for last May, as the forensic lab needed more evidence to provide “meaningful results.”
Police were told to obtain a warrant for more samples but “significant delays” meant the police did not send the evidence to the forensic lab until September.
The judge said the delay in submitting the samples meant the results came back too late for the defence to properly respond and prepare for trial.
“No explanation has been given for the police actions resulting in delay,” Murray said in his decision. “The actions of the police show only that they failed to act on a timely basis, without regard for the law.”
The judge also said some delays stemmed from issues with disclosure of information, which he said came in “bits and pieces.”
In particular, he noted that the complainant in the case delivered the wrong electronic device to the police.
Even after the correct device was given to police, however, it was not immediately searched, he said.
While the total delay was 38 months, the Crown argued three months was due to the defence’s delay, and the preliminary inquiry led to an extra four-month delay.
As such, the Crown argued that the delay was not unreasonable and the trial should proceed.
The judge found the delay to be unreasonable, however, and issued the stay of proceedings.
The decision comes in the wake of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last July which set strict limits for trial lengths.
The new timeline in superior courts is 30 months from the date charges are laid until the expected end of the trial.
Despite tossing the case, the judge referred to the sexual assault charge against Foroughi-Mobarakeh as “extremely serious.”
University spokeswoman Cindy MacKenzie said Foroughi-Mobarakeh was an employee in the Adult Education department.
He is currently an assistant professor in the School of Community Resources and Development at Arizona State University.
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