• Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included details of the application hearing, a story that was posted online after defence and Crown agreed there was no need for a publication ban, but before the end of the hearing at which time a publication ban was put into place. Details from the hearing have been removed from the story.
The defendants in a high-profile chicken abuse case asked a BC Supreme Court Justice on Monday (Sept. 28) to drop the charges.
Lawyers for the three defendants in the case – Elite Farm Services Ltd., the company’s owner Dwayne Paul Dueck, and Ontario-based Sofina Foods – were in a Chilliwack courtroom yesterday to apply to Justice Thomas Crabtree to issue a stay of proceedings.
Each defendant faced 38 counts under the Health of Animal Regulations, after undercover video was filmed by California-based animal rights activist group Mercy For Animals (MFA). The video showed employees ripping live birds apart, stomping and throwing chickens.
Details of the hearing cannot be reported at this time as a publication ban was put into place at the end of the day.
The case goes back to 2017 when the undercover videos were recorded at multiple farms in the Fraser Valley. Incidents on the file make allegations of abuse at farms in Langley, Abbotsford, Lindell Beach, Aldergrove, Chilliwack and Surrey.
The application to drop the charges continued Monday, and was scheduled to continue on Tuesday.
If it is not granted, defence is asking for other legal remedies to overcome what they say amount to Charter violations by the prosecution.
If none of that is granted, the case is scheduled to go to a jury trial in the new year with jury selection slated for Jan. 21 and 23, 2021.
Where the trial will be held was of great speculation in court on Sept. 28, 2020, as current COVID-19 protocols meant even the 14 people in the courtroom for the application hearing, exceeded the 11 allowed in courtroom as posted on the door. After several delays, consultation with the BC Sheriff Service, Justice Crabtree allowed the hearing to continue but pointed out that issues will arise down the road.
A trial that includes a jury of 12 men and women could not possibly be held in courtroom 201, the largest at the Chilliwack Law Courts, while following pandemic protocols.
Crabtree pointed out that a jury trial is currently underway at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre in a room that will not be available for the Sofina/Elite/Dueck trial.
“Counsel may be aware that steps are being taken to find a facility to accommodate the jury trial in this community,” Justice Crabtree told the court on Sept. 28. “It’s not possible here… There is an ongoing jury trial taking place out of this court location off site but I don’t believe that site is available for this trial for four to six weeks. Alternate sites are being canvased but it remains to be seen if this community can house the jury proceeding. It would be my intention to keep the trial in the community.”
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