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Supreme Court of Canada to rule on Sri Lankan deported after being charged with wife's slaying

The Supreme Court of Canada will release a ruling on Friday that could order a new trial for a Sri Lankan national who was deported after his murder charge was stayed due to excessive court delays.

Sivaloganathan Thanabalasingham, a refugee from Sri Lanka and a permanent resident, was charged in 2012 with the second degree murder of his 21-year-old wife, Anuja Baskaran.

In 2017, Thanabalasingham avoided a trial after he applied for a stay of proceedings on the grounds that his right to be tried within a reasonable time had been infringed. The decision to grant him a stay sent shock waves through Quebec's legal system

A Quebec Superior Court judge ruled the nearly 60-month delay between Thanabalasingham's 2012 arrest and the start of his trial, which was scheduled to begin on April 10, 2017, was excessive according to a benchmark set by the highest court in its ruling on R. v. Jordan in 2016.

Crown prosecutor Maude Payette said the trial judge did not apply the Jordan framework properly. (Steve Rukavina, CBC News)

That ruling established the so-called 'Jordan standard' — a hard limit on the amount of time that can pass between the laying of charges and the anticipated end of a trial. The Jordan limits are 30 months for superior court cases and 18 months for provincial court cases.

Thanabalasingham's charges were the first to be thrown out under Jordan in Quebec. 

Three days after the proceedings were stayed, a deportation order was issued against Thanabalasingham because he had been convicted of assault against his wife related to three incidents in 2011 and 2012, and was ordered to serve four months in jail

The assaults predated Baskaran's killing at the apartment she shared with her husband in August 2012. Thanabalasingham was charged with second-degree murder, but pleaded not guilty.

Thanabalasingham was sent back to Sri Lanka on July 5, 2017 without objection.

Thanabalasingham could be returned to Canada to stand trial

Despite the fact that Thanabalasingham is no longer in Canada, the Crown continues to pursue an appeal. 

"We felt that it gave a wrong interpretation or applied wrongly the Jordan decision," Crown prosecutor Maude Payette said. 

Payette said the Crown does not agree with how the delay was calculated, noting that 80 per cent of the proceedings in Thanabalasingham's case happened before the Jordan ruling came down.

The Crown had asked the Quebec Court of Appeal to order a new murder trial, but the province's high court initially didn't hear the case because it said Thanabalasingham's prosecution had become irrelevant and theoretical.

The Crown brought the matter before the Supreme Court, which bounced the case back to Quebec's Court of Appeal for a decision on its merits.

The majority of the Court of Appeal justices dismissed the Crown's appeal on the basis that it had not found any errors in the original ruling. The Crown then brought the case back to the high court

If the Supreme Court rules in the Crown's favour, a new murder trial may be ordered in Quebec's Superior Court.

Although Canada does not have an extradition treaty with Sri Lanka, the country could still decide to send Thanabalasingham back to Canada to stand trial.

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