Preliminary hearing begins for alleged Little Current arsonist

by Isobel Harry

GORE BAY—Witnesses began to be called on Monday, June 15 in the preliminary hearing of Clinton Gordon Haggart, the 32-year-old Little Current man who stands accused of seven counts of arson in a series of suspicious fires that tore through homes and businesses in that town last summer.

A preliminary hearing will determine what evidence the Crown has, providing an opportunity for the defence to evaluate the case against their client.

As expected, the court imposed a publication ban to protect the fairness and integrity of the case and the privacy or safety of a victim or witness; in this case, the applicable section of the Criminal Code of Canada is 539(1), specifically related to preliminary hearings. An order under this section bans publication of evidence taken at a preliminary inquiry until the accused has been discharged or, if ordered to stand trial, the trial has ended.

Before Judge Louise Serré of the Ontario Court of Justice, it was established that the case will go to trial as there is enough evidence that has been disclosed by the Crown. Glenn Sandberg, counsel for Mr. Haggart, indicated to The Expositor that there is no need for a lawyer to argue against committal to trial in this case. Therefore, the process became one of ‘discovery’ and the judge left the court; she will return when all the evidence has been presented to rule on the committal to trial. The accused has elected to be tried before a judge and jury in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Mr. Haggart appeared in court, led in handcuffs into the prisoner box by police escort. He wears a goatee, mustache and close-cropped black hair; his v-neck white t-shirt showed tattoos on his neck and arms. He had trouble hearing the proceedings because of an ear infection, court was told, and was given a court hearing device which he wore throughout as he listened intently.

The charges against Mr. Haggart are: intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire to personal property owned by Clinton Haggart, 25 Wilson Street East, Northeast Town, Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services, under Section 434.1 of the Criminal Code on June 13, 2014, and intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire to a dwelling house, property of Ontario Aboriginal Services, 25 Wilson Street East (the home of the Haggart family); intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire to a dwelling owned by Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services, 35 Blake Street West (the home of Mr. Haggart’s mother-in-law, Margaret Bowerman); intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire to a garage, property of Lorne Alston, on July 23 at 15 Blake Street West; intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire to a shed, property of Jamie Still, on August 5, 26 Blake Street West; intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire to a dwelling/recreation centre, property of Michael Maciuk, on August 17, 21 Campbell Street West (the Island Training Centre); and intentionally or recklessly causing damage by fire to a storage facility, property of Floyd James Renton, on August 7, 23 Campbell Street West (the former Little Current curling rink).

The process of discovery is expected to last for a week. Crown Attorney Stacy Haner told The Expositor that the complexity of the case requires that many witnesses will be called to testify. This newspaper will continue to monitor the daily court sessions for a report in next week’s issue.