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Trial of ‘Freedom Convoy’ organizers returns to court today

Two key convoy leaders are heading back to the courtroom today as the trial of Tamara Lich and Chris Barber enters its fourth month.

The pair are co-accused of mischief and intimidation, among other charges, connected to the massive demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions that gridlocked the area near Parliament Hill for weeks in early 2022. 

The trial began in September and was expected to wrap up in October, but procedural delays have lengthened the timeline.

“We’ve really gotten bogged down in procedure which for many people would have looked very confusing and boring but in fact it’s very important,” said uOttawa criminologist Michael Kempa to CTV Morning Live.

Lawyers are only expected to meet in court briefly on Jan. 4, so they can present evidence about the admissibility of documents related to a court order that was issued during the protest.

The Crown argues that the two worked closely enough to be tried as co-conspirators, meaning the evidence applying to one should apply to both.

“It’s very important to the Crown,” Kempa said.

“It would mean every piece of evidence would apply equally to both accused, so if they’re not found to be co-conspirators, it basically doubles the work of the Crown in the sense that they have to build a separate case for each person.”

Kempa says it is becoming ‘increasingly likely’ the judge won’t side with the Crown, which would delay the trial even further. A case can be thrown out if it is determined that excessive delays have taken place.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms entitles any person charged with an offence the right to be tried within a reasonable time. The Supreme Court of Canada has determined that provincial court trials should be completed within 18 months of charges being laid, but the deadline can be extended to 30 months.

Lich and Barber’s lawyers have argued that the case should be dismissed on the grounds that their actions are protected by the Charter because planning a protest is not an illegal activity.

The case centres centrally on the actions of Lich and Barber and not on the ‘Freedom Convoy’ itself.

No further dates have been scheduled in the trial.

With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Ottawa’s Ted Raymond

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