HALiFAX – A Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service internal review has found several significant contributors to the delay in bringing Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh back from India to face 43 sex charges from nine complainants who were young boys at the time.
"The effort to bring Mr. MacIntosh home involved a number of government agencies, both federal and provincial, and necessitated the co-operation of the government of India," said Martin Herschorn, director of public prosecutions. "It was a long and complex process."
In a report to the attorney general released Wednesday, the public prosecution service focuses on the length of time it took to extradite and prosecute the Port Hawkesbury businessman on charges dating back to the 1970s.
Herschorn said in addition to the delay attributed to the Crown attorney, other contributors were international extradition law, renewing MacIntosh's passport by Passport Canada, the documentation requirements of the International Assistance Group of the federal Department of Justice, and the time it took India to extradite MacIntosh to Canada.
"Our report explains, not excuses, the delay in getting MacIntosh back to Canada. The PPS certainly shoulders responsibility for some of the delay," said Herschorn.
He recognized the victims for their strength and courage and thanked them for being brave enough to come forward, and strong enough to endure the pain of reliving their experience.
"We know that the role we played in the delay is unacceptable and we know that letting these courageous men down is unacceptable," said Herschorn.
The first complaint to the RCMP was made in January 1995, with the first two charges laid in December 1995. Over the next several years, eight more complainants came forward and another 41 charges were laid by late 2001.
In 2006, Ottawa formally asked New Delhi to extradite MacIntosh. Indian authorities arrested him almost a year later and MacIntosh was back on Canadian soil in June 2007.
MacIntosh appealed after being convicted of 17 sexual offences over the course of two trials. The convictions were thrown out by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal on the basis of undue delay. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the Court of Appeal decision in an April 22, 2013 decision.
In conducting its internal review of the case, the public prosecution service examined thousands of case documents going back to 1995, and consulted with the Crown attorneys directly involved.
The cause of the prosecution service delay was the Port Hawkesbury Crown attorney's failure to followup promptly as the case moved along. The explanation is the volume of other criminal code charges the Crown attorney had to deal with in court on a daily basis. The Port Hawkesbury office was handling more than 1,000 Criminal Code charges annually during that time.
"Still, there is no excuse for not moving things along quickly," said Herschorn. "Unreasonable delay is unacceptable, and we have taken action to enhance our processes to reduce the risk of unreasonable delay by the Crown in future cases."
The review found that once MMacIntosh was back in Canada, the Crown was ready to proceed; any delay from then to trial was caused by defence motions.
As a result of its internal review, the prosecution service is taking five immediate actions:
-- an electronic alert system is being established to notify chief Crown attorneys of any cases where eight months has elapsed since the first court appearance
-- potential delay cases is now a standing agenda item at executive meetings
-- Crown attorneys will receive training on delay at annual educational conferences
-- A prosecution service policy on extradition cases is being developed
-- Crown attorneys will receive training on the process and principles of extradition.
"There were hard lessons learned from the MacIntosh case," said Herschorn. "And from that will come a better public prosecution service for Nova Scotians."