MONTREAL -- The corruption case has been halted against former Quebec deputy premier Nathalie Normandeau and her co-accused four-and-a-half years after their high-profile arrest.

Quebec Justice Andre Perreault agreed with the defence Jordan ruling argument that there was an unreasonable delay in bringing the case to trial.

"The applicants' right to be tried within a reasonable time has been violated," wrote Perreault in his ruling. "A stay of proceedings against them must be ordered."

Crown prosecutors will have 30 days to challenge the ruling.

The 2016 Jordan Ruling puts a ceiling of 18 months between an arrest and trial in a provincial court without a preliminary hearing or 30 months in other cases.

Normandeau was arrested 52 months ago on fraud, breach of trust and corruption charges related to contracts allegedly awarded in exchange for campaign financing.

Normandeau was an influential minister who served as a Liberal member of the legislature from 1998 to 2011 and held key cabinet positions including municipal affairs, natural resources and intergovernmental affairs.

Normandeau has always declared her innocence in the case.

Outside the courthouse in Quebec City, an emotional Normandeau welcomed the ruling, saying she should never have been charged. She said she did everything should could to move the case to trial to clear her name, but said she was denied at every turn.

"I don't wish this on my worst enemy," she said. "I've had four-and-a-half years of my life stolen."

Her lawyer, Maxime Roy, praised the 81-page ruling, calling it "precise, scholarly and thoughtful," before adding that it is "unassailable."

Friday's ruling puts an end to the proceedings against Normandeau, her former chief of staff Bruno Lortie, former vice-president of Roche engineering firm Marc-Yvan Cote, former Roche executives Mario W. Martel and France Michaud, and former Gaspe mayor Francois Roussy.

-- with files from The Canadian Press.