WINNIPEG — A man accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl has had the charge against him stayed after a judge found inaction and miscommunication by the RCMP and Crown prosecutors led to seven years of delays.
Frank Graham was charged with sexual assault and arrested in Thompson, Man., in March 2011.
He was released on conditions including that he must live in Thompson. Though he showed up to court two times after that, Graham did not appear in court a third time and moved to Edmonton.
In an Aug. 5 decision in Manitoba’s provincial court, Judge Stacy Cawley said that although RCMP and the Crown knew where Graham was in 2012 and 2014, he was not arrested until 2019.
When he was brought back to Manitoba, there was more than a year of delays before a trial date was set.
It would be 10 years and three months from the time Graham was arrested in 2011 to the time of his trial. Cawley said inaction by the Crown and the RCMP caused seven years of that delay.
“This is a serious sexual assault allegation involving a young complainant, but even the most serious charges cannot diminish the right to trial within a reasonable time,” Cawley wrote in her decision.
“The severity of this charge is precisely why the Crown and the RCMP should have acted with reasonable diligence to arrest Graham when they had the chance.”
In her decision, Cawley said Graham’s right to be tried within a reasonable time was violated, and stayed the charge of sexual assault against him.
TIMELINE SINCE GRAHAM’S ARREST
In her decision, Cawley reviewed the case from the time of Graham’s arrest to the trial date – a period of more than a decade.
The following is a timeline of events highlighted in Cawley’s decision.
JUDGE SAYS GRAHAM’S ARREST SHOULD HAVE BEEN A ‘PRIORITY’
In her decision, Cawley said there is no question that Graham caused a delay when he fled from Thompson in 2011. However, she said RCMP and the Crown knew Graham was in Alberta in 2012 and 2014.
“He was not hiding. He would have been easy to find had the RCMP exercised reasonable diligence,” Cawley said. She added that she accepts Graham believed his charges were stayed when he was released in 2012.
She said the steps by RCMP and the Crown to extend the warrant and arrest of Graham was “too little, too late.”
“Given the severity of the charge, Graham’s arrest should have been a priority,” she said.
RCMP would not comment on the decision. A spokesperson for Manitoba Justice told CTV News the department understands the importance of addressing case delay issues in the province.
“Timely execution of warrants and increased documentation of those efforts are of the utmost importance,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“While we are not able to discuss issues related to a specific case, government will continue to work with key stakeholders to address delay issues in the coming weeks and months.”
None of the allegations against Graham were ever tested or proven in court.
-with files from CTV’s Jill Macyshon
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