October 10, 2015 - 10:38 AM
KAMLOOPS - A Kamloops judge determined a hunter killed outside of his permitted area, but stayed the charge because lengthy delays meant he wasn't getting a fair trial.
Abraham John Norman Dougan’s case took over 800 days to wind its way through the court system after the charge was laid in September 2012.
Despite determining he did hunt and kill a 220 pound Dall sheep in the Yukon territory in 1999 when his lottery only allowed for a Northern B.C. hunt, Kamloops Provincial Court Judge Stella Frame said she had no choice but to accept the defence’s Charter argument that Dougan was subjected to an unreasonable delay for a fair trial.
“Had I heard the delay application at the start of the trial, there is a significant likelihood it would have succeeded then. The intervening delays and prejudices only compounded the factors,” she said.
Because of the size of the sheep, the Kamloops hunter submitted a photograph and article to the Big Game Records book. At the time, it was the second largest sheep ever taken.
The case came before the courts in 2012 after conservation officers received a confidential tip that Dougan’s sheep in the record book was killed in Yukon territory, not Northern B.C. as the article suggested. Dougan’s suspected kill site in a remote territory was subsequently investigated and photographed by conservation officers in 2011. No bones or hair from the animal were found at the site. Investigative photographs of the site in the Yukon were compared to Dougan's photograph in the records book.
“There were a number of blown up versions of photographs presented (during trial), as well as the blown up reproduced book photograph. The similarities between the two photographs, to the extent that they do match, are striking,” Justice Frame said.
Comparing the rock in the photographs along with the mountain top in the background, Frame concluded the investigating conservation officers found the correct kill site in the Yukon.
“It is ultimately the photograph of the foreground depicting the identical rock which satisfies me that the Crown has proved this case beyond a reasonable doubt. I find that Mr. Dougan shot the Dall sheep in Yukon Territory, and not in British Columbia. He then transported it to British Columbia to the pick-up point," Frame said.
THE COURT DELAYS
Dougan killed the sheep in 1999. He was investigated in 2011 and charged in 2012. By the time the matter came to the court, Frame said key witnesses in the case were no longer available.
“The publisher of the Big Game Records Book, a book at the heart of this proceeding, had died. With him went any information relating to the location of the original photograph and story submitted by Mr. Dougan for publication in that book,” Frame said. “Additionally, another witness, the one who found the location of the site in Yukon where the Crown believed the sheep was shot, was subsequently convicted of some offence and is serving federal prison time... that evidence is lost."
Beyond witnesses, Frame said a lot of evidence was lost over time which complicated Crown’s prosecution and challenged defence. Dougan no longer had photographs of his trip and there were no remnants of the animal at suspected kill sites. As for Dougan himself, Frame said the prolonged proceedings increased the stress and prejudice he felt while facing a criminal charge.
“A good deal of basic evidence is lost for all time,” Frame said. “These are precisely the reasons why cases must be investigated, prosecuted and tried within a reasonable time. No matter how one looks at it, the 13-year-old shooting of a sheep that is not endangered is not of such complexity or importance that 37 months from charge to decision can be called reasonable."
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015