In Canada there is no time limit on initiating a criminal prosecution. The Charter Of Rights does provide a constitutional right to trial within a reasonable time but this only applies to delays after a charge is taken. Pre-charge delay is limited only by the constitutionnally protected right to “fundamental justice” and our Supreme Court has ruled that only in very rare cases will the passage of time prior to a charge being taken bar a trial from proceeding. Many criminal lawyers were surprised at the rulings which held that even the unavailability of important witnesses and evidence does not prevent so-called “historical” cases from passing constitutional muster. Delayed reporting is most common in sexual cases where the myth that delay in reporting is indicative of the accusation being false has been debunked by experts. In fact, the trauma of this kind of case and the attaching stigmatization of the victims are what usually cause the delay in prosecution so, ironically, the impact of these crimes on the victim can serve to improve the chances of punishing the perpetrator.
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