Criminal proceedings have come to a halt against a man charged with sexually assaulting a teenage girl at a Pitt Meadows rave, five days before his trial was set to begin.
Crown entered a stay of proceedings Wednesday against Colton Ashton McMorris on one count of sexual assault.
A trial for McMorris was schedule to begin Feb. 27.
“Police conducted an exhaustive investigation, but the branch concluded that the available evidence does not provide a substantial likelihood of conviction,” said Neil McKenzie, spokesperson for B.C.’s criminal justice branch.
The charge against McMorris stemmed from an alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl at “Another Night in Bangkok,” a party held on a farm at 12993 Harris Road in September 2010.
A teen took photographs and a video on his Blackberry of what he thought was consensual sex and sent it to others.
The images were eventually posted by others on the social-networking site Facebook and repeatedly shared online, prompting RCMP to make a public appeal to stop their distribution.
McMorris was the only person charged with sexual assault, although police initially believed more than one person participated in it and dozens watched.
The sudden stay came after a senior prosecutor conducted “a thorough assessment of the evidence”, explained McKenzie.
The review included interviewing potential witnesses and studying forensic evidence.
“In these circumstances where we feel a charge assessment standard is not met, we direct a stay of proceedings,” McKenzie said.
A stay of proceedings is often described as putting a criminal charge in legal limbo.
Crown can proceed on the same charge any time within 12 months by filing a “notice of recommencement” with the court.
If no notice is given within one year, “the proceedings shall be deemed never to have been commenced.”
“I wouldn’t want to speculate what might happen in the future, but the Crown assessment at this stage is that the evidence does not provide any substantial likelihood of conviction,” said McKenzie.
For the RCMP, the stay of proceedings is a disappointment.
The allegations were investigated not only by Ridge Meadows RCMP’s serious crime unit but specialized teams from E Division headquarters.
“Our team of investigators worked many, many long hours gathering the best possible evidence to put forward to Crown,” said E division spokesperson Sgt. Peter Thiessen.
“This is the system we have to work under. We can only provide the evidence that we have and then it’s out of our hands.”
Besides McMorris, two others faced charges following the rave.
A teenage boy, who was initially charged with making and distributing child pornography, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of distributing obscene material and was sentence Feb. 10 to 12 months probation.
Dennis John Allen Warrington, 20, faces a charge of making and distributing child pornography. His trial is set to begin in September.