Assault charge stayed against daycare operator


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Prosecutors have stayed criminal proceedings against an unlicensed daycare operator who was accused of assaulting an infant in her care, just two months after she lost her fight to quash her trial.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/08/2022 (296 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Prosecutors have stayed criminal proceedings against an unlicensed daycare operator who was accused of assaulting an infant in her care, just two months after she lost her fight to quash her trial.

Annette Onakpoya, 40, was arrested in June 2019 and charged with aggravated assault.

Court documents alleged Onakpoya violently shook the nearly seven-month old baby, resulting in “life-altering” injuries.

Onakpoya, who also goes by the name Tracey Liberty Kerrhs, was set to stand trial next month, but at a hearing Wednesday, the Crown stayed the charge against her.

“The Crown has recently received significant volumes of new disclosure,” prosecutor Shannon Benevides told Queen’s Bench Justice Gerald Chartier. “This creates a significant disclosure issue such that the trial cannot proceed and the Crown is entering a stay of proceeding on the charge.”

It is unclear if the further delay was a factor in the decision to stay the charge. Crown officials did not respond to a request for further comment.

Onakpoya had retained three lawyers since her arrest and most recently was representing herself, court documents say. Between May and August 2021, she had requested the court adjourn her September 2021 trial four times.

While Onakpoya’s adjournment requests were denied, the court agreed to a Crown adjournment request to secure medical evidence ruling out alternative explanations for the infant’s injuries.

In June, Queen’s Bench Justice Candace Grammond dismissed a delay motion by Onakpoya, ruling the Crown was responsible for just 24½ months of delay in bringing the case to trial, well under the 30-month ceiling prescribed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Prosecutors argued in court documents that the case against Onakpoya was one of “exclusive opportunity.”

The child was “hale and healthy” when his mother dropped him off at Onakpoya’s home on the morning of Oct. 10, 2018, court documents allege. But when his mother returned later that day, the child’s breathing was shallow, he was limp and appeared to be in pain.

When his condition worsened, his parents called 911 and he was rushed to hospital.

“The Crown alleges that (Onakpoya), having exclusive opportunity, assaulted (the child) and caused his injuries,” prosecutors said in a court document opposing Onakpoya’s delay motion.

In a February 2021 motion brief to dismiss the charge against her, Onakpoya alleged the child was in the same physical state when he left her home as when he had arrived.

“There are other people that had exclusive access to the child prior to and hours after I had access to the child that day,” Onakpoya wrote, alleging “one of whom was in a drug-induced mentally altered state.”

Documents more than a foot thick detail the case’s long and winding road to court.

In a March 2021 filing, Onakpoya sought to quash the direct indictment against her, arguing there was a lack of evidence and that prosecutors were abusing their authority.

When the Crown proceeds by direct indictment, the case proceeds to trial without a preliminary hearing.

Onakpoya, who in 2017-18 worked for Manitoba Justice as an executive assistant, alleged deputy attorney general Michael Mahon, with whom she had “regular contact,” did not like her and had “racially profiled her.”

Onakpoya argued Mahon, who as a function of his job was a signatory to the direct indictment, was in a conflict of interest and she alleged the direct indictment constituted “bullying.”

In a March 2020 email exchange filed with court, Onakpoya quarelled with a Crown attorney who was trying to settle a date for her to appear in court on the direct indictment.

“You’re going to be in my situation some day when someone lies against you and you’ll be threatened with arrest just the same way you’re doing now and you’ll remember this day,” Onakpoya wrote.

“I’m not afraid of an arrest. Worse things have happened to people, so have fun ridiculing my genuine request… (Nelson) Mandela spent 27 years in jail and today he is immortalized.”

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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