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Man loses appeal of drug conviction

A man who appealed his conviction on a charge of conspiring to traffic cocaine and marijuana on the grounds that it took too long to get to trial has been turned down.

Charlie Noftall was arrested in March 2013 and charged jointly with three other men as part of a police operation dubbed Operation Baffle. Six men were charged in total, after police seized a significant amount of what they originally thought was the drug "bath salts" packaged in baggies in the fuel tank of a pickup truck in St. John's. Testing later revealed the substance was phenacetin, a painkiller long banned in Canada for its link with kidney disease.

Before Noftall went to trial in January 2016, he filed an application to have his charged stayed on the grounds that his right to be tried within a reasonable time had been violated, since he had been charged more than three years previously.

That application was dismissed, however, with a provincial court judge ruling that although it was 52 months from the time Noftall was charged to the anticipated end of his trial, much of that time was due to the defence's own delays and the complexity of the information in the case.

Noftall's lawyer, Erin Breen, and the lawyers of the three other accused men had asked the court on the day the trial was set to begin for a delay, saying they wanted to know if a police informant who was at the heart of an investigation into alleged wrongdoing by senior RNC managers was the same one used by police in Operation Baffle.

Despite the Crown's protest, the lawyers filed an application to request information regarding the informant.

That application was later dismissed, and Noftall was convicted in June of last year, and sentenced to serve three years in prison. After his conviction, but prior to sentencing, Noftall applied for a reconsideration of his original rejected application, citing a new Supreme Court of Canada decision, but that, too, was dismissed.

Noftall appealed that decision this fall, with the Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador ruling this week to once again dismiss his case.

The appeals court determined that the delay caused by the application for information about the informant was 15.5 months, not 17.5, but this still left more than a 36-month wait for Noftall to go to trial. Although this is longer than the legal maximum, the Crown had established there were exceptional circumstances.

Noftall's rights were not infringed by the delay, the appeals court ruled.

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Related story:
Substance seized not bath salts bu phenacetin, RCMP says

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