By Tina Comeau
The lawyer representing the former CEO of the South West Shore Development Authority (SWSDA) told a provincial court judge in Yarmouth on Monday, March 17, that his client, Frank Anderson, is electing to stand trial before a Supreme Court justice.
But first a preliminary inquiry must be held and that has been scheduled for Aug. 27, 28 and 29 in provincial court in Yarmouth.
A preliminary hearing is common practice in matters where a trial election is to the Supreme Court level. It is where the defence gets an opportunity to explore the Crown’s evidence in the case and the judge makes a determination of whether sufficient evidence exists to send the matter to trial.
The evidence presented at a preliminary inquiry has a publication ban placed on it.
On the docket for Anderson’s March 17 court date were 20 charges, 17 of which involve allegations of uttering a forged document. The three other charges are fraud charges. The timeframe of the charges stem from when Anderson was CEO of SWSDA.
The charges pertain to alleged documents submitted to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the provincial Department of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism and involve documents submitted for payment.
None of the charges lists any specific dollar amounts, only that they exceed $5,000.
Anderson was not present in court and his lawyer Don Pressé, from a Bedford law firm, joined the Crown and judge via a telephone conference call. The matter had come before a judge on three prior occasions but was adjourned each time as more time was needed to reach a stage where a court election could be made. The adjournments were never contested.
Prior to the August preliminary inquiry, the two sides will participate in a July15 focus hearing with the court. Such a hearing is aimed at helping with case management and to ensure that the time set aside for a preliminary hearing is adequate and will be used efficiently.
Asked how many witnesses the Crown may call at the preliminary inquiry, Senior Crown Counsel Jim Clarke, of the province’s Special Prosecutions Section, said, “It’ll be less than 12. At this stage I haven’t had an opportunity to determine the total number. There are at least a half a dozen primary witnesses and then there’s a half a dozen peripheral ones.”
Clarke suggested how many witnesses he will ultimately call is an issue that may be worked out between himself and the defence prior to the July focus hearing.
The Crown has provided the defence with the evidence it has to bring before the court. Given the nature of the charges, Clarke agreed that this is a complicated case.
He said at this stage there is no plan to reduce the number of charges that have been filed. That would only change, he said, if the Crown felt it could not meet the burden of proof on each of the charges.
“Right now we feel we can,” he said.