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Tensions rise over court delays during hearing for Calgary mom convicted in son’s strep death

Ryan Alexander Lovett is shown with his mother Tamara Lovett in this undated handout image provided by the child's father Brian Jerome from his Facebook page.

HO-Brian Jerome-Facebook/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Frustrations about court delays boiled over in a Calgary courtroom Tuesday during arguments over whether a woman found guilty in the death of her son should have her conviction overturned due to the length of time it took to get to trial.

Tamara Lovett, 48, was found guilty in January of criminal negligence causing death by Justice Kristine Eidsvik who said Lovett "gambled away" the life of her son Ryan by treating his strep infection without seeking medical help in 2013.

Her lawyer, Alain Hepner, said 38 months passed between the time his client was arrested and the time she was convicted – well beyond the 30 month time frame set out for superior courts by the Supreme Court of Canada in July of last year in the so-called Jordan decision.

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"The fact that it takes this kind of time for a trial to happen in Alberta, for you to suggest this is reasonable in a democratic society, I find shocking," Eidsvik told the Crown prosecutor.

"A lot of the other jurisdictions around the world have criminal trials within a year. So what's up? What's up in Canada that this issue keeps coming up over and over and over since 1992 that we can't seem to have reasonably timed trials in Canada?"

Eidsvik said Alberta is probably one of the worst provinces, but it's an issue "across Canada."

Lovett gave her son dandelion tea and oil of oregano when he developed the infection that kept him bedridden in their Calgary home for 10 days in March 2013.

She said she thought he had a cold or the flu and didn't think his swollen lymph nodes, an oozing ear infection and jaundiced eyes were anything she couldn't handle.

The Jordan decision allows for some flexibility for so-called transitional cases, where the charges were laid before the Supreme Court's decision was released in July 2016. Prosecutor Jonathan Hak argued the Lovett case should fall under that category.

But he acknowledged that courts continue to struggle with delays.

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"We're setting trial dates in February of 2019 for anything that is over one week and there is not a blessed thing the Crown can do about that," Hak said.

"Since I'm not the one who writes the cheques or hires the people, there's nothing I can do and there's nothing the Crown can do ... We work with what we're given."

Hak argued the Lovett trial was delayed by six months because the defence was unavailable, but Hepner said that wasn't the case.

"It's just the institutional delay," Hepner said. "It's the manner in which there was no availability of court time, likely not enough availability of judges, availability of the justice system accommodating the public."

Eidvik adjourned the case to Nov. 17. She said if she dismisses the Jordan application she will proceed directly to sentencing Lovett.

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