Alleged Hells Angel headed back to B.C. court
By Keven Drews, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER - B.C.'s highest court has reversed a stay of proceedings against an alleged full-patch member of the Hells Angels and has sent the theft-and-extortion case back to trial.
B.C. Court of Appeals Justice David Frankel said in a ruling posted online Thursday that a lower-court judge was mistaken when he attributed 18 months in delays to the Crown and stayed proceedings against Robert Frederick Widdifield last June.
Frankel said B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Johnston also erred when he ruled Widdifield experienced "serious prejudice" in the court process.
"Responsibility for the trial not going ahead in 2012 does not rest with the Crown," wrote Frankel in the ruling. "Indeed, no one can be said to be responsible (i.e. faulted) for the delay that followed."
John Green, Widdifield's legal counsel, declined to comment on the ruling.
Frankel said the Crown was only responsible for five months of delays that were related to the disclosure of documents to the defence.
He said another 11 months of postponements can be blamed on the unavailability of defence counsel or "inherent time requirements of the case."
Frankel said Widdifield's bail conditions "can hardly be said to be onerous or restrictive," and the accused failed to explain how his inability to travel through the United States affected his interests and liberty in a meaningful way.
He said nothing showed stress and anxiety was exacerbated by trial delays.
"I am, accordingly, of the view that the prejudice suffered by Mr. Widdifield as a result of the delay in bringing him to trial, was, at best, minimal," said Frankel.
Widdifield was accused of extortion and theft in connection to a stolen boat. Charges were initially sworn Oct. 28, 2010.