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32-year-old sexual assault case put to rest

Unlike other countries, Canada does not have a statute of limitations on indictable offences. What this means, then, is that anyone can be charged and prosecuted for an indictable offence at any point following a crime. On first blush, this may make sense, as it makes it harder to escape justice. With some thought, however, there are some problems that arise.

One of the biggest is that someone can be charged for a crime 10, 20, 30 or more years after it happens. After a while, witnesses forget what they have seen or heard, evidence degrades and it may become harder and harder to defend against a criminal charge. For some of the more serious charges, such as sexual assault, innocent individuals could find themselves dealing with faulty identifications and old evidence.

It appears that is what happened to one former professional wrestler. Fortunately for him, however, the judge presiding over his trial recognized the serious flaws in the prosecution's evidence and found the wrestler innocent of all charges.

The wrestler was accused of sexually assaulting a then-12-year-old boy between 1980 and 1982.

It is not entirely clear why the complainant waited 32 years before stepping forward. Nor do we know what evidence and testimony he had that purportedly supported his claim.

Although there is no sign that Canada will be instituting a statute of limitations anytime soon, a delay in prosecution can cut both ways: it may be as hard for the prosecution to collect evidence as it is for the defence.

Source: SLAM! Sports, "Phil Watson cleared of sexual assault charge," Greg Oliver, June 2, 2014

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