Judge orders release of Hells Angels members due to time constraints
A judge ordered the release of 31 alleged members of the Hells Angels arrested as part of a 2009 police sweep called Operation SharQc because it was deemed impossible to try them within a reasonable timeframe.
Quebec Superior Court Judge James Brunton ordered the release of the 31 accused, and also reduced the number of charges against the other 124 people arrested during the police sweep two years ago.
Brunton criticized the prosecutor's office for going ahead with such a massive mega-trial without making sure the Quebec justice system was able to handle such a workload, and he warned the same may happen to other mega-trials in the future.
Prosecutors say they plan to appeal the judge's decision.
The defence attorneys argued that it would reasonably be 10 years before their clients go to trial, and Brunton agreed, releasing the 31 accused who were slated to face the courts last.
Most of the released members were charged with drug trafficking and gangsterism, and their release comes just past the second anniversary of their original arrest on April 15, 2009.
Of the 124 who remain behind bars, most of them are full-patch members of the Hells Angels and will face charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The first two of their trials will begin June 10.
Defence attorneys estimated that trying all 155 suspectas would have required testimony from 2,200 witnesses, and there are over 4 million data files that have been entered into evidence. Theys ay if all that information were to be printed out on paper, it would make a stack that would be 145 kilometres high.
SharQc 2009 – an acronym for Strategy Hells Angels Region of Quebec – was a joint operation conducted by the Sureté du Québec and the RCMP that was the culmination of more than 80 investigations dating back to 2005.
At the time of the arrests, police asserted they had also seized five Hells Angels bunkers and had effectively shut down the biker gang's east coast operation.
The alleged offences went back to 1992 when, according to police, the biker gang was involved in drug trafficking and gangsterism.
But most of the murder charges are related to Quebec's biker war between 1994 and 2002.
With files from La Presse Canadienne