Abdi delays hurt all involved

Justice delayed, the adage goes, is justice denied.

Eventually, the trial of Const. Daniel Montsion, charged with manslaughter, assault with a weapon and aggravated assault in the death of Abdirahman Abdi, will come to an end. Abdi died one year ago next week after a rough arrest by Ottawa police. It’s important our city finds out precisely what happened.

But Montsion’s trial isn’t even scheduled to begin until February 2019. That’s a tragedy for all involved.

The Justice for Abdirahman Abdi Coalition summed it up this way: “For a case of this magnitude involving a public servant, which has attracted enormous public interest, and centred on the violent loss of a life, it is unacceptable for there to be such a long delay in justice.”

Unacceptable, but apparently unavoidable. The trial was supposed to start in September 2018 — still more than two years after Abdi’s death. But Montsion’s defence lawyer, Michael Edelson, isn’t available at that time.

This is an example of the court delays that are plaguing Canada’s justice system. In some instances, including an unrelated case of first-degree murder here in Ottawa, trial delays have led to the accused walking free. That’s unlikely to happen here; Edelson and Montsion have waived the right to a speedy trial.

Yet the public, we’re sure, would like this to proceed more swiftly. Unfortunately, “The parties who count in terms of timing are Crown and defence, and if they agree that’s often all that matters,” says University of Ottawa law Prof. Carissima Mathen.

Fine, but this is far from ideal.

First, there’s Montsion. He’s a cop stuck in limbo, waiting to find out his fate. He’s suspended, though with pay.

Second, there are taxpayers. Ontario law doesn’t allow for officers to be suspended without pay, meaning that taxpayers are paying for an officer accused of serious crimes, even though he’s not doing police work.

Third, there are the family and friends of Abdi. They’re without justice, or closure. They don’t know if the man accused in his death will be found criminally responsible, or innocent.

It’s unfair to everyone involved. We don’t even officially know the cause of death. We don’t know the details of the Special Investigations Unit’s probe that led to the charges against Montsion.

Abdi’s death was a tragedy. So, too, is this awful wait for answers — and for justice.

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