R v Williamson

This case was heard alongside and applied the new ‘reasonable delay’ framework from R v Jordan, which replaced R v Morin, [1992] 1 SCR 771. The appellant was charged in 2009 with historical sexual offences against a minor. Trial did not begin until December 2011, with the appellant on strict bail conditions during that time. The trial judge found the delay to be reasonable under the Morin framework, and the Ontario Court of Appeal reversed. Applying the Jordan framework, the majority of the Supreme Court of Canada found that only 1.5 months of the 35.5 months’ total delay were attributable to the defence, exceeding the presumptive ceiling by four months. As no exceptional circumstance had been proven, the delay was unreasonable. Applying the ‘transitional exceptional circumstance’ of whether the delay could be justified by the parties’ reasonable reliance on the Morin framework, the majority found that the previous state of the law could not justify the nearly three years’ worth of delay. The individual interest in a prompt trial therefore outweighed societal interest in having the case tried on the merits.

Chief Justice McLachlin, concurring in the result, found that the delay was unreasonable under the revised Morin framework proposed by Cromwell J in his concurring opinion from Jordan.

Under the revised framework he proposed in Jordan, Cromwell J found that the delay only exceeded the usual amount of time needed for such cases by a few months. He would have allowed the appeal, finding that in such a close case the trial judge had been correct to consider the gravity of the offence and consequent societal interests in trying the case on its merits.

SCC Reasons for Judgment


Date Document
2014/05/12 Appellant – Her Majesty the Queen
2015/08/17 Respondent – Kenneth Gavin Williamson
2015/07/30 Intervener – Attorney General of Alberta
2015/08/04 Intervener – British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
2015/09/08 Intervener – Criminal Lawyers Association (Ontario)