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Crown stays all charges against Edmonton hot tub company, owner

Crown prosecutors have paused prosecuting dozens of charges laid by Service Alberta’s consumer investigations unit against an Edmonton hot tub company.

Sunray Manufacturing Inc., its owner Brad Roberts, and a salesperson were facing 49 counts of violating Alberta’s Consumer Protection Act. 

Roberts and the salesperson were also facing criminal charges for eight counts of fraud under $5,000. Some of the charges were laid in March and others were laid last year.

Sunray Manufacturing operates as Sun Ray Hot Tubs & Patio at 7509 72A St.

Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) spokesperson Michelle Davio told CBC News the prosecutor stayed all charges on May 1 as the file did not meet the standard for prosecution. 

She said ACPS does not continue prosecutions unless the evidence establishes a reasonable likelihood of conviction and the matter is in the public interest.

Roberts has not responded to recent requests for comment but told CBC News in April that he did not think the charges would be proven in court. 

Stayed proceedings can be reactivated but that is unusual, according to Robert LaValley, a lawyer with Liberty Law in Grande Prairie, Alta.

“Generally, once something is stayed, it is no longer going to be acted upon,” he said.

LaValley said stays can happen if there has been a change related to evidence and they can also be related to judicial resources.

Edmonton resident Martin Duckworth was among the nine consumers whose names were listed in the charges laid against the business. 

Duckworth had complained to Service Alberta’s Consumer Investigations Unit (CIU) about the company.

He said he paid a $2,500 deposit on Sunray hot tub more than three years ago but has yet to receive the tub.

Duckworth received a closing letter from CIU manager Trevor Addison on Thursday.

The letter said the Crown had decided to enter a stay of proceedings on all charges, effectively ending the prosecution of Duckworth’s complaint and those of the other customers.

A man in black holds a blue file folder.
Martin Duckworth says he’s been waiting more than three years for the hot tub he ordered from Sun Ray Hot Tubs & Patio. (Pete Evans/CBC)

Addison summarized the rationale behind the decision, saying Crown prosecutors have limited court time and must make decisions in the public interest as to which files proceed to trial.

“They did not believe that they would be able to prove there was intent to defraud for the criminal charges,” Addison wrote in the letter.

“The Consumer Protection Act charges are only regulatory charges thus they did not warrant the use of court time due to complexity of this file, the amount of loss involved, the seriousness of the offences compared to other matters before the courts and the likely sentence that would be given if convicted,” he said in the letter.

Addison said the Crown prosecutor believed the best outcome for consumers would be to resolve disputes in civil court.

Duckworth said this outcome has left him feeling frustrated and let down.

He said he paid the deposit more than three years ago and the time limit for bringing a case to court is generally two years

“Service Alberta, they’re there to protect Albertans and consumers in Alberta and to be dismissed like this, it’s almost like, well, are they really working for us?” he said.

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