Late disclosure nets defendants $600,000

An Ontario Superior Court judge has ordered the Crown to pay nearly $600,000 to three defendants in a violent abduction case.

Justice Antonio Skarica ruled yesterday that a late disclosure of crucial evidence that caused a mistrial warranted the Crown to fund the legal costs of the defendants in the case.

The precedent-setting award is the largest in Canadian criminal court history.

"The negligence of the prosecution resulted in the three accused, through no fault of their own, incurring hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs that could have been avoided had the prosecution provided timely disclosure as they were obligated to do," said Skarica in a 46-page ruling.

The defendants, Jaswinder Singh, 29, Asogian Gunalingam,32, and Jora Jassal, 30, face charges of kidnapping, extortion and assault of a Brampton woman in November 2011.

Skarica ordered a mistrial when it was discovered that the Crown was in possession of cell phone records that had not been disclosed to the defence.

The records came from a BlackBerry that was found in a pair of pants near the location where Gunalingam was arrested. A wallet with several pieces of Gunalingham's identification, as well as a blank cheque from the abducted woman were also found in the pants.

When police lost the wallet, the defence brought the ownership of the pants into question. The defence requested the records of the BlackBerry, a crucial part of evidence, but didn't receive them until five weeks into the trial.

"I think it's going to send shock waves through the legal community, especially in the way that Crowns handle disclosure," says Deepak Paradkar, who has represented Jassal since November 2011. "Defense lawyers are now going to be pretty diligent in making sure they have what they should."

While Paradkar's client was awarded about $205,000, he doesn't see it as a victory for him.

"It's not like they get money. It just gives them the funds to fight another day," he says.

A retrial has been set for this September.

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