The Crown in Quebec says it won't appeal a judge's decision to end a murder trial for five Hells Angels after prosecutors failed to disclose key evidence in a timely manner.
Chief prosecutor Annick Murphy said Friday the Crown studied Superior Court Justice James Brunton's ruling and a committee recommended there be no appeal.
Claude Berger, Yvon Tanguay, François Vachon, Sylvain Vachon and Michel Vallières – members of the biker gang's Sherbrooke chapter – were ordered released mid-trial one week ago. Justice Brunton granted a defence motion for a stay of proceedings because evidence it had sought since 2011 was divulged only in September. That new evidence, gathered during separate police investigations, contradicted the testimony of a key Crown informant and would have forced the defence to change a strategy that had been in the making over several years.
Justice Brunton was critical of the Crown and police for failing to disclose the evidence, calling it a serious abuse of process. "It constitutes a fundamental act on the principles of fairness which should benefit any criminal prosecution," he wrote.
Ms. Murphy said her office has ordered an internal administrative investigation into why it took so long to hand over the evidence. It wants conclusions by Dec. 18.
Ms. Murphy said she has acknowledged the severity of the judge's comments regarding the conduct of the Crown, noting "such conduct would be contrary to the roles and responsibilities that guide the institution I manage, as well as the values of justice, integrity and competence that drive it in accomplishing its mission."
A separate committee will also study the concept of megatrials and how they are managed.
The issue of megatrials – and their manageability – has come under increased scrutiny in the province. The committee will study how to better oversee such trials in the future and will look at Quebec's difficulties with SharQc, the 2009 police sweep against the Hells Angels.
Ms. Murphy said a report is expected by August, 2016, and the recommendations will be made public.
In 2011, the federal government introduced legislation aimed at streamlining the megatrial process by increasing the size of juries hearing such cases and appointing a judge to help impose strict deadlines.
Justice Brunton was the same judge who ordered a stay of proceedings in 2011 for 31 Hells Angels members and sympathizers who faced various drug-related offences. He ruled the defendants, also arrested in the same 2009 sweep, would face prejudice with lengthy delays.
The Crown failed in an attempt to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, which agreed with Justice Brunton.
Ms. Murphy noted the 2009 operation against the Hells Angels has resulted in 104 convictions with sentences ranging from five years to life in prison.