Judge reserves decision in child sex assault trial delay

A former B.C. Ministry of Child and Family Development manager sentenced for child pornography in 2018 wants a number of related sex charges thrown out of court for trial delays.

Edward Owen Berry, 57, was found guilty and sentenced in 2018 to eight months in jail and two years probation for possessing child pornography. He was also charged in 2016 with sexual assault, sexual interference of a person under 16, and exposing himself to a person under 16.

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Edward Owen Berry
Edward Owen Berry

Berry's lawyers were in Fort St. John court last week seeking a stay of proceedings on the 2016 charges, arguing the prosecution has caused an unreasonable delay. The trial has lasted 54 months, well over the 18-month limit set by the Supreme Court of Canada.

It's the second time in two years his lawyers have sought to have the case thrown out. The court dismissed a first application in January 2018.

Crown prosecutors say they have acted in good faith, and said the latest claim of a delay was "being used as a sword" and caused by the defence's late request for some of Berry's medical records.

"Had late applications for records not been made, we would have finished this trial in June of 2018," said prosecutor Tamera Golinsky, noting a timely verdict could be reached by this June.

Berry's lawyers argued the Crown had ample opportunity to anticipate delay. Jonathan Desbarats said the records were necessary to refute evidence presented at the beginning of trial.

"I don't enjoy this finger-pointing exercise. I feel that defence is being held to an unreasonable standard of perfection," he said.

Berry was arrested in December 2014 after child pornography was discovered on a computer recovered from a fire at his apartment in Prince George. Hundreds of images were recovered, along with 120 videos, depicting several exposed teenage boys and youth. He was further charged in 2016 as part of that investigation.

Judge Brian Daley has reserved his decision until the end of this month. 

Email reporter Tom Summer at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca.

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