Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm’s arraignment hearing on an assault charge was delayed yet again Wednesday after his lawyer fell ill.
Pimm was set to enter a plea Jan. 4. However, the proceeding was delayed for a sixth time after Greg Cranston, Pimm’s lawyer, developed a “serious” medical issue in recent weeks that prevented him from appearing by phone, Crown prosecutor Tamera Golinsky told a judge.
Golinsky spoke on behalf of Michael Klein, who was appointed as special prosecutor on the case Aug. 17.
Pimm is accused of committing assault in Dawson Creek on Aug. 13. He stepped down from the B.C. Liberal caucus several days later, citing allegations that forced him to retain legal counsel.
A judge ordered a publication ban after the initial charges were laid to prevent media from identifying the victim.
Because Pimm is a member of the legislature, a special prosecutor is handling the case to “avoid any potential for real or perceived improper influence in the administration of criminal justice,” the Criminal Justice Branch wrote in a release Aug. 17. Pimm announced in 2015 that he was not seeking reelection.
Pimm’s arraignment hearing has been delayed six times since the charge was laid. Several initial hearings were rescheduled due to delays in receiving information from the RCMP.
The matter will next be before the court Jan. 10. Pimm has not been found guilty of the charge
Arraignments a complex process
Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel with the provincial Crown, said arraignments take into account a number of factors.
He stressed he was speaking about arraignment hearings in general and not Pimm’s case specifically.
“A big part of the process of getting to trial is the Crown disclosing its case to the accused,” he said.
Disclosure materials are typically reviewed by the Crown before being provided to defence counsel, who goes over the case with his or her client. At that point, the accused can enter a plea or request more information.
McLaughlin said the process around those disclosures has become more complex as case law develops.
“Some courts say ‘well, you know enough about the case, now it’s time to move the case forward,’” he said. “At the same time, courts are very concerned the accused person knows the case against them, so they can make an informed decision.”
He added a recent Supreme Court decision on trial times stressed the need to resolve matters in “as expeditious a manner as possible.”
“There is a concern on the part of the Crown to ensure we meet our obligations as the court has set out and bring the matter to trial within those time frames—18 months for Provincial Court, 30 months for Supreme Court trials,” he said.
Paul Doroshenko, a Vancouver-based defence lawyer, said it’s not uncommon for the arraignment process to take several months.
However, “after six weeks or two months of it originally getting into court, the lawyers should be there with their calendars conducting an arraignment hearing and scheduling a trial date,” he said. “Of course, every case is different, and sometimes it doesn’t go the anticipated way.”