Rescue workers lift ‘Buddy’ an emaciated gelding from a ditch in the winter of 2008 after the horse was allegedly used to try to tow a car.

Trial delays may scuttle animal cruelty case

Vet accused of using car to tow horse has waited two years for hearing

The lawyer defending former Langley veterinarian Mark Marohn plans to file an application to have the case thrown out because of excessive delays.

On Sept. 2, a written request for the digital audio recording from the first day of court proceedings on Sept 28, 2010 was filed in Surrey Provincial Court.

It was to support an “Askov” application, according to court registry documents.

The name comes from a 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decision (R. v. Askov) that makes undue trial delay grounds for dismissal of all charges because it is a violation of the Canadian Charter and Rights and Freedoms.

On Sept. 9, the application for the digital audio recording from the Marohn case was granted.The trial was set to resume this Friday (Sept. 30).

Marohn and his estranged wife Carol Schoyen-Marohn, both veterinarians at the time, were charged with animal cruelty after a 2008 incident at the Langley farm the couple rented.

The attempt to rescue an emaciated gelding named “Buddy” from a ditch was captured exclusively by Times photographer John Gordon in images and video footage that provoked a storm of public outrage.

The horse was euthanized after it was allegedly tied to a car to tow it from a ditch.

Marohn and Schoyen-Marohn were each charged with two criminal charges, one of causing an animal to be in distress and one of failing to provide “necessaries” for an animal.

Marohn has insisted the police misunderstood what they saw that day.

The case has proceeded slowly since the first court appearance in June of 2009.

During a brief interview with a Times reporter in January of this year, Marohn complained about the delay getting to trial and warned the full story had yet to be reported.

“We’ve waited two years to put our case on,” said Marohn (pictured below).

The trial of Carol Schoyen-Marohn had to be postponed after she suffered a stroke.

Her case is not scheduled to start until October of next year.

Mark Marohn’s trial didn’t begin until January of this year.

Defence and prosecution have been conducting a voir dire, or trial within a trial to decide what evidence is admissible.

After the first week of hearings in January, the case was not set to resume until the end of this month (Sept. 30).

An increasing number of Surrey cases are being thrown out by judges for undue delays.

A recent report by the provincial court system shows the Surrey courthouse suffers the worst trial waits in all of B.C. with a 16-month average wait for a two-day trial.

The provincial average is 10.6 months.

In Surrey some cases have been quashed after delays as little as 14 months.

Marohn waited more than 24 months for his hearing to begin.

In deciding whether the Marohn delays were unacceptable, the judge can only count slowdowns attributed to the system itself or prosecution-requested adjournments.

Delays caused by the defence lawyer generally don’t count.

The judge must also conclude Marohn was harmed in some way by the wait.

Surrey judges have become increasingly outspoken about the logjam.

“The backlog is so great and the courts so crowded that in many cases there will be an unreasonable delay should there be even one adjournment on a trial date,” warned Surrey Provincial Court Judge Peder Gulbransen last November when he threw out the prosecution of an impaired driver who waited 32 months for a trial date.

B.C. is the only province in Canada where the number of sitting judges has fallen as retirees are not quickly replaced.

In Surrey, a provincial court assessment estimated it would take three more full-time judges hearing criminal trials for two years to reduce wait times to acceptable levels.

– with files from Surrey Leader

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