Almost 200 Albertans who paid COVID ticket fines for violating public health orders during COVID might see their fines refunded following a court decision in July ruling that orders made by the chief medical officer of health were invalid and breached the Public Health Act.
The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) has said it would also be entering acquittals or stay of proceedings in 14 other outstanding COVID-related cases before the courts.
The ACPS told Postmedia in a written statement on Aug. 24 that it has concluded “there is no longer a reasonable likelihood of conviction in relation to Public Health Act charges involving the contravention of the disputed orders from the Chief Medical Officer of Health.”
“The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service may apply to the Court of King’s Bench for an order quashing the convictions on charges of contravening the COVID-related public health orders,” a spokesperson for the ACPS told the CBC on Aug. 28.
“If the court grants the order, the fines will be refunded,” said ACPS. The Crown would not provide details on the legal mechanism that will be used to invalidate the tickets and refund fines, stating it would “deal with these matters in due course.”
There were approximately 759 charges laid in the province during the pandemic. Some were dropped in the lead-up to court, and 176 resulted in convictions for public health violations issued during the pandemic for mask mandate non-compliance, attending outdoor gatherings such as protests, failing to follow government orders on social distancing, and defying business closure orders.
Crown prosecutors earlier this month requested that the court acquit two Calgary Baptist churches and Ty Northcott of Alberta’s Northcott Rodeo. The defendants, who were represented by Alberta’s constitutional lawyer Leighton Grey, were charged under the Public Health Act during the pandemic period.
Alberta Crown prosecutors said they would also seek the acquittal of Pastor James Coates and Grace Life Church near Stony Plain, as well as Pastor Tim Stephens, also represented by Mr. Grey, of all charges laid during the pandemic for defying gathering restrictions.
Mr. Grey informed The Epoch Times on Aug. 23 that his clients had been acquitted of charges relating to pandemic lockdowns, but that their acquittals were still being processed by the Crown.
The acquittals follow a separate court decision that ruled public health orders issued by the Alberta government were outside the jurisdiction of the province’s Public Health Act (PHA) and therefore invalid.
“I predicted this was going to have a ripple effect,” Mr. Grey told The Epoch Times on Aug. 28. “We have had hundreds of these COVID prosecutions that were sitting in abeyance, pending the outcome of another case.”
The court decision was made July 31 by Court of King’s Bench Justice Barbara Romaine in the R. v. Ingram case. The ruling invalidated all public health orders issued by the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) from March 2020 until September 2021 on the basis they were enacted outside of the powers of the PHA because they were issued by cabinet rather than then-chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
The 90-page court decision followed a legal challenge to pandemic public health orders filed by two churches and a business owner in December 2020 alleging that CMOH orders were unlawful and unconstitutional.
This legal precedent has now had a trickle-down effect on all outstanding court cases and charges laid during the pandemic.
“The dominoes are falling,” said Mr. Grey.