A judge ruled that the 15-year-old boy who was charged with first-degree murder in the death of York Regional Constable Garrett Styles, 32, last year will go to trial on the reduced charge of manslaughter.
In June, a preliminary hearing was held in Newmarket for the teen who cannot be named under Canada's Youth Justice Act. At a preliminary hearing, prosecutors must adduce sufficient evidence upon which a jury, properly instructed, could convict.
Yesterday, Justice Peter Bourque rendered his decision. He found there was not sufficient evidence to try the youth for first-degree murder. The 15-year-old was committed for trial on the lesser offence of manslaughter and the trial is expected to be held next year.
As is customary in preliminary hearings, the judge ordered a ban on the publication of the evidence called at the hearing. The ban will be in place until the case is given to the jury or is otherwise disposed of.
Second-degree murder in Canada is first-degree murder if it involves the killing of a police officer during the course of his or her duties which is the case here. In order to obtain a conviction for murder, the Crown must prove that the 15-year-old intended to take Styles' life. To secure a conviction on the lesser charge, prosecutors need only prove Styles died as a result of an illegal act committed by the 15-year-old.
John Miskiw, president of the York Regional Police Association, was not pleased with the decision. He told the Toronto Star he had not talked to Styles' wife but said he imagines "she's not feeling the greatest. She lost her husband in the line of duty and it's being minimized."
David Berg, lawyer for the 15-year-old who was rendered a quadriplegic in the incident that took Styles' life, is quoted in the National Post as saying, "It's a legally positive [development], but at the end of a day we still have a young person who's a quadriplegic and a young officer who's dead, and we have their families. It's still a horrible tragedy on both sides."
The youth was granted bail last November and was present in court yesterday although some of his court appearances were made through a video link because of his medical condition.
As Digital Journal reported, Styles was on routine patrol just east of Newmarket in the early morning hours of June 28, 2011 when he spotted a 2005 Dodge Caravan containing four youths. He pulled the van over and while partially inside the driver's door, the van suddenly accelerated. Styles was dragged about 300 metres before the van rolled over, pinning the officer underneath. He was freed and taken to Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket where he later died.
The 15-year-old driver sustained serious injuries while none of the three passengers were hurt.
CTV News reports the Crown plans to appeal Judge Bourque's decision.