01/27/2012 11:16 EST | Updated 03/28/2012 05:12 EDT

MacIntosh sex-crimes appeal may go to top court

The Supreme Court of Canada is being asked to hear an appeal of the case of Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh, whose convictions for sex-crimes against four boys in the 1970s were overturned.

An appeal court in Nova Scotia stayed the 17 charges last month, ruling there was too much of a delay in bringing MacIntosh to trial.

The provincial public prosecution service announced Friday it will file an application with the country's top court next week.

"We believe we have legal grounds involving issues of public importance which warrant consideration by the Supreme Court of Canada," Martin Herschorn, director of the service, said in a statement.

The allegations against MacIntosh, a former Cape Breton businessman, surfaced in 1995, when he was living in India and working as a telecommunications specialist.

An extradition request was made in 2006. MacIntosh was arrested in April 2007 and brought back to Canada two months later. The first trial involving one group of complainants began in 2010.

In that trial and a second one last year, MacIntosh was convicted of 17 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency involving four complainants. He was sentenced to a total of 5½ years in prison, minus time spent in custody.

MacIntosh appealed those convictions.

In a decision last month, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal overturned all of the convictions, finding that MacIntosh's "right to be tried within a reasonable time was infringed."

"Applying the proper principles, and balancing the length of the delay with the explanation for it and the prejudice to the appellant and society’s interest in a trial on the merits, the delay was unreasonable," Justice Duncan Beveridge wrote.

The court also said the Crown did not proceed with due diligence in the case.

"While I see no basis to suggest a deliberate decision to delay, the conclusion is evident that the Crown did not proceed with due diligence," Beveridge wrote. "There were lengthy periods of inactivity before and after the influx of additional complainants."

Crown attorney Jennifer MacLellan said at the time that MacIntosh was to blame for much of the delay.