June 18th, 2024

Accused in Coalhurst impaired driving death fires lawyer


By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on December 13, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A three-week judge and jury trial set to begin early in 2023 for a southern Alberta man charged in relation to a drunk driving death three years ago, may have to be cancelled.

Wesley Brian Phillips is set to stand trial Jan. 30-Feb. 17 on charges of impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death, failure to provide a breath sample following an accident causing death, and breach of probation. That trial, however, is at risk of being cancelled after Calgary lawyer Kim Ross got off the record Monday during a brief hearing in Lethbridge Court of King’s Bench.

“I’ve been advised by Mr. Phillips that he is seeking new counsel,” Ross said, confirming there had been a breakdown in the solicitor-client relationship.

Phillips, who appeared in court by CCTV from the Medicine Hat Remand Centre, said he is working with Legal Aid to hire a new lawyer.

Madam Justice Johnna Kubik allowed Ross to get off the record, but Crown Prosecutor Shane Morrison said he is concerned a new lawyer may not have time to prepare for a lengthy trial.

“The Crown is very concerned about delay with regards to this particular matter,” Morrison said. “It might be optimistic to get counsel on and get them up to speed for the 30th.”

Phillips’ charges stem from a fatal car collision on Nov. 25, 2019. Police reported that about 7:15 p.m. a white VW Jetta westbound on Highway 3 collided with a red Ford Escape that was stopped at a stop sign on 51 Avenue in the Town of Coalhurst where it intersects with the highway. Betty Ment, 66, who was the lone occupant of the Ford, died in the collision. The driver of the VW was taken to Chinook Regional Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Phillips was released from remand custody shortly after he was charged, but was re-arrested and released several times afterward until last February in provincial court when he was refused bail. Phillips was again denied bail following a detention review in Court of King’s Bench last June, and again last month.

The matter is scheduled to return to court Jan. 9 to determine whether Phillips has retained a new lawyer and if the trial will be able to proceed.

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