Canadian Criminal Procedure and Practice/Pre-Trial Matters/Adjournments
An adjournment is re-scheduling of a court proceeding, be it arraignment, plea, trial, sentencing, or otherwise.
The granting of an adjournments is at the discretion of the judge (e.g. see s.571 and 645; 669.1(2)), but in practice is a frequent occurrence.
Types of Adjournments
Any judge dealing with an indictable matter without a jury:
Adjournment of non-jury trial
571. A judge or provincial court judge acting under this Part [Pt. XIX — indictable offences — trial without jury] may from time to time adjourn a trial until it is finally terminated.
R.S.C. 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 203
Adjournments of trials on indictable matters:
606. (3) An accused is not entitled as of right to have his trial postponed but the court may, if it considers that the accused should be allowed further time to plead, move to quash, or prepare for his defence or for any other reason, adjourn the trial to a later time in the session or sittings of the court, or to the next of any subsequent session or sittings of the court, on such terms as the court considers proper.
Any judge dealing with an indictable matter with a jury:
645. (1) The trial of an accused shall proceed continuously subject to adjournment by the court.
(2) The judge may adjourn the trial from time to time in the same sittings.
A Preliminary Inquiry Judge may adjourn under s.537:
537. (1) A justice acting under this Part may
- (a) adjourn an inquiry from time to time and change the place of hearing, where it appears to be desirable to do so by reason of the absence of a witness, the inability of a witness who is ill to attend at the place where the justice usually sits or for any other sufficient reason;
Any judge dealing with a summary matter:
803. (1) The summary conviction court may, in its discretion, before or during the trial, adjourn the trial to a time and place to be appointed and stated in the presence of the parties or their counsel or agents.
669.1 (2) Any court, judge or provincial court judge having jurisdiction to try an accused or a defendant, or any clerk or other proper officer of the court, or in the case of an offence punishable on summary conviction, any justice, may, at any time before or after the plea of the accused or defendant is taken, adjourn the proceedings.
R.S.C. 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 137
Where the accused has been misled or prejudiced by any issues found in the indictment or information, the accused may adjourn a matter. (see s.485, 547, and 601)
Where a party wishes to call an expert witness and did not give notice, the available remedy is an adjournment under 657.3 (5).
Discretion of the Judge
It is a discretionary decision on whether to grant an adjournment requested. The decision is reviewable on the circumstances of the particular case, including the ability and quality of the accused. This exercise of discretion is afforded considerable deference.
A judge is typically not inclined to adjourn trial matters. The cost of resources to bring a matter to trial and the desire to bring a matter to a conclusion speaks to the judge's interest in having a matter proceed. This is balanced against the accused's right to a fair trial and right to be tried within a reasonable time.
Where the judge has grounds to believe that the request for an adjournment is a sham, the judge may refuse the adjournment.
See a review of principles at R. v. White 2010 ABCA 66 at para 17.
Lack of counsel
The judge has discretion to adjourn a trial on request of the accused for reason that they are not represented by counsel. The judge must consider the accused constitutional right to a fair trial. However, the accused also has the right to represent himself. Further, the right to be represented by counsel must be exercised "diligently and honestly", thus they may be refused if they have not acted honestly and diligently. The accused cannot be refused where the absence of counsel is not their fault.
However, an accused who chooses not to have counsel cannot appeal a conviction on the grounds of not having effective representation.
Lack of Preparation
It is usually expected that an adjournment will be granted where there is late arriving evidence.
Where a lawyer fails to properly prepare an adjournment is not required as there is a breach of their duty to the court and client.
- R. v. Johnston, 1991 OntCA
- R. v. E.R.S. 1994 Atla.C.A.
In order to adjourn a trial matter on the grounds of missing witnesses the applicant must establish:
- that the absent witnesses are material in the case;
- that the party applying has not been guilty of laches or neglect in arranging for the attendance of the witnesses; and
- that there is a reasonable expectation that the witnesses will attend court on the date sought by the party applying for the adjournment.
The judge may also consider other relevant circumstances.
- R. v. LeBlanc 2005 NSCA 37 -- no adjournment for crown in failing to subpeona witnesses
R. v. Rose (D.A.) (1995), 140 N.S.R.(2d) 151 (SC) 1995 CanLII 4458
R. v. A.T., 1991 CanLII 6104 (AB Q.B.) - factors to consider R. v. Shergill 2009 BCCA 55 -- judge should have granted crown adjournment for missing witness
R. v. MacDonald, 1998 CanLII 18016 (NL C.A.) -- short adjournment for crown for missing witness
- R. v. Dang, 2005 ABCA 441 -- consequences of delay by adjournment
- R. v. Kandola and Johal, 2012 BCSC 1012 - adjournment for pre-sentence report denied
- R. v. Sanborn, 2012 BCPC 41 -- crown not opposed -- adjournment denied
- R v. Downey, 2011 ABQB 805 -- failure to grant an adjournment for a self-rep overturned
- R. v. Cole, 2010 NSCA 59 -- crown adjournment of trial refused
- R. v. Marshall, 2009 NSPC 6 -- Trial adjournment granted
- R. v. Oliver and Morrison, 2005 CanLII 3582 (2005) 194 CCC (3d) 92 (Ont. CA) at para. 28
- R. v. Brundia 2007 ONCA 725
- R. v. Roebuck, 2001 ABQB 111
- R. v. Nichols, 2001 CanLII 5680 (ON C.A.) -- refusal of adjournment mid-trial for firing counsel
- R. v. J.E.B. 1989, 52 CCC 224 (NSCA)
- R. v. Smith, (1989), 52 C.C.C. (3d) 90 (Ont. C.A.)
- R. v. Manhas,  1 S.C.R. 591 1980 CanLII 72
- Barrette,  2 SCR 121 1976 CanLII 80
- R. v. Spataro, 1972 CanLII 25 (SCC),  SCR 253
- R. v. Warren (1973), 14 CCC 188
- Darville v. The Queen (1956), 25 C.R. 1