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Update: Anthony Clowe, Kurt Churchill acquitted of drug charges after court delay

['Erin Breen']
['Erin Breen']

Two local men who had been suspected of having been involved in a large drug trafficking operation are free today.

Anthony Vincent Clowe of Paradise and Kurt Churchill of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's were acquitted of all charges at Newfoundland Supreme Court this morning.

That's after federal Crown Brenda Boyd and provincial Crown Elizabeth Ivany opted to call no evidence in the men's trial.

The men were not in the courtroom when Justice Rosalie McGrath rendered her decision. They were represented by their lawyers Randy Piercey (for Clowe) and Erin Breen (for Churchill).

The Crowns' decision to call no evidence was the result of a Jordan application filed by the defence that the prosecution opted not to contest. A Jordan application deals with unreasonable delay in cases being brought to trial.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruling last year set new rules for how long a case can take from start to finish.

It took three years for Clowe and Churchill's case to get to the trial stage. 

Clowe, 54, and Churchill, 39, were charged in 2014 in connection with an investigation targeting the cocaine trade in St. John's. Clowe faced two charges — possessing property obtained by crime and laundering proceeds of crime.

Churchill faces numerous other charges, including possession of a weapon for dangerous purpose and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence — trafficking in a controlled drug or substance.

Clowe and Churchill were arrested in the spring of 2014 following a lengthy investigation dubbed Operation Battalion. It involved police forces in this and other provinces.

During the investigation, the RCMP executed search warrants at airports in St. John's and Montreal and on houses and cars in St. John's.

Police seized approximately $350,000, cocaine, a loaded 9-mm prohibited handgun, ammunition, brass knuckles, a stun gun and a pickup.

Boyd indicated she would file an application for forfeiture of the money that was seized, while Ivany said the firearm would be seized, as neither Clowe nor Churchill claimed ownership of it. 

Lawyers chose not to comment after the case. 
Justice Minister Andrew Parsons, who was asked about the case Wednesday afternoon, said that he can only say so much, because some of the Jordan cases being dropped had problems for a long time — before he was even justice minister.

But Parsons said since the Jordan case, he’s taken measures to make sure that things happen faster.

“We have added more resources to our Crown attorney’s office,” he said. “We have talked to every part of our system. Our Crown attorneys have talked to police agencies to talk about the necessity of quicker disclosure.”

Parsons said that this isn’t just a problem in Newfoundland and Labrador; justice systems right across the country are wrestling with it.

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Twitter: TelyCourt
— With files from James McLeod

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