Cornwall police scolded by judge over potential plea deal upset

The front entrance to the Cornwall courthouse at 29 Second Street West. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

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CORNWALL – A Cornwall judge has called out the Cornwall Community Police Service on late filing of paperwork when it comes to criminal charges.

Judge Deborah Kinsella said it was “not the first time” city police have shown up to court saying “hey, we’ve got this extra charge” in the final steps of a plea deal.

Kinsella made her remarks as a shoplifter and illicit drug user was being sentenced last week on a number of charges, both federally and provincially.

In this case, an alleged breach of probation on May 22 didn’t become aware to the court until the day of the arraignment and sentencing on July 31.

While a breach charge is at the low end of the criminal charge spectrum, a more serious charge may have upset months of work by both Crown attorneys and defence to come up with a joint submission for the judge to consider. Derailing the plea deal would end up costing taxpayers more money as both sides would have to go back to the drawing board to consider a newly disclosed criminal charge.

Judge Kinsella added that she needed to make the problem known to everyone in the body of the court and to “direct my arrow” at someone, which ended up being the police department.

Cornwall Community Police Sgt. Robert Archambault was told to file the information on the charge but not have it sworn to, which would have led to the man’s re-arrest.

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Police Chief Dan Parkinson accepts the criticism from Judge Kinsella and said this case was not “business as usual.”

After the situation was brought to the attention of the chief by Cornwall Newswatch, he says they are already taking action.

“We’ve taken steps in view of this most recent event. We’ve informed our supervisory staff when considering pursing additional charges to make sure that it’s not going to interfere with any plea bargain,” Parkinson said.

The police department has also had “difficultly getting into OCDC (Ottawa-Carleton Detention Center) to speak about additional charges,” either because officers can’t get to Ottawa or prisoners refuse to come out of their cells. “We’re left to wait until they show up in court down here (in Cornwall). It’s not the best situation.”

“We don’t want to do that. We would prefer to have all the charges on a plea bargain centralized in one place and one case and if some charges are withdrawn, so be it. We don’t want to been seen to be putting an accused person into double jeopardy.”

“We accept the criticism and we accept the need for us to handle these things more effectively,” the chief said. “We always look forward to working cooperatively with our justice partners in making sure that the court system runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.”

As for the shoplifter, he was given a sentence of five-and-a-half months in jail.