Quebec - The defence lawyers for the train engineer charged in connection with the deadly derailment and explosions in Lake Megantic in 2013 say they will be ready to go to trial next May, as long as their client, Tom Harding, is tried alone.
The defence has filed a request to have Harding stand trial separately, on the basis that he requires a trial in English, and trying Harding along with the other three accused would make for a cumbersome bilingual trial.
"We would have to translate everything, every time a judge intervenes, or when there is a objection in court," said Charles Shearson, one of Harding's lawyers.
"You can't tell me a separate trial in English will take the same time as a bilingual one."
Harding is charged with criminal negligence in the death of 47 people and is scheduled to stand trial next September, along with railway traffic controller Richard Labrie, train operations manager Jean Demaitre, and the defunct railway company, Montreal Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA).
Superior Court Justice Gaetan Dumas convened the defence and prosecution for a case management hearing Thursday, asking both sides to figure out a way to start the trial as soon as possible.
Stay of Proceedings Another Possibility
Earlier this week, Harding's defence team announced it would pursue a stay of proceedings in its client's case.
Harding's lawyers are just the latest of dozens of criminal lawyers to signal their intention to seek to have charges dropped in the wake of a ruling last July by the Supreme Court of Canada that established what constituted a reasonable delay for criminal proceedings.
Provincial court cases must be completed within 18 months, but can be extended to 30 months if there is a preliminary inquiry.
The stay of proceedings would not apply to the federal charges Harding faces, filed in 2015.
The defence still plans to pursue the stay of proceedings in the event the judge rules against the request for a separate trial for Harding after the case returns to court on 26 Jan 2017.
One of the Crown prosecutors, Veronique Beauchamp, dismissed the defence's claim that a bilingual trial would drag the proceedings out too long.
"Our evidence applies to all of the accused," she said.
"Our witnesses are English and French, so no, I think it will make it even faster if it's bilingual."
The Crown says it is willing to start the trial as early as next month.