Judge blames Abbotsford Police for delay in court case
Charges have been thrown out against a man accused of luring a child over the Internet, because the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) took too long to complete a forensic report on the matter, according to a provincial court judge.
Judge Daniel Steinberg said that David Alan Blattler, 43, suffered an "intolerable" 27-month delay from the time of his arrest until the first day of his trial on Jan. 25 of this year, when the charges were stayed.
Steinberg said similar cases typically take eight to 10 months to get to trial.
Blattler was charged after allegedly communicating online with a person he thought was a girl under the age of 16, but was an RCMP detective posing as such.
The two allegedly arranged a meeting at a location in New Westminster, and Blattler was arrested when he showed up at the scene.
As part of the investigation, Blattler's computer was seized in October 2009.
The RCMP requested, due to their own time constraints, that the APD conduct the forensic exam of the computer.
The case was originally scheduled for trial 14 months later – on Dec. 14, 2010 – but the APD issued its preliminary report on its findings just four days before.
Steinberg said additional evidence presented in the report resulted in both the Crown and defence needing more time to prepare for trial.
"I find that the adjournment request, which effectively doubled the delay time, was caused by the delay in the forensic examination and the disclosure of that examination by the Abbotsford Police," the judge stated in his written reasons for staying the charges.
Steinberg acknowledged that perhaps "the police are as severely under-funded as the courts are."
Speaking on the case, APD Const. Ian MacDonald said yesterday that the delay was due to limited resources and a heavy caseload.
At the time the RCMP asked for help on the case, there were two officers specializing in computer forensics who were also major crime detectives. They would be called in to take part in investigations such as homicides, and several murders in 2009 and 2010 took them away from some of their specialized work.
When they did have time to focus on the computer side, they had a heavy caseload that was "time consuming and labour intensive," MacDonald said.
He said, although there is now only one officer working in computer forensics, with plans to hire a second one, the APD is better at prioritizing the cases and "farming out" what it can't do.