He was accused of murder, but for almost three years a Vernon, B.C., man’s court case has been on hold.
Richard William Fairgrieve suffered a series of strokes and was considered unfit to stand trial.
However, after a hearing on Monday, the BC Review Board determined Fairgrieve is capable of heading back to court.
Fairgrieve was one of the people charged with killing William Bartz in his Vernon, B.C., home in July 2017.
The fit-to-stand trial decision was the outcome the victim’s sister, Teresa Bartz, was hoping for.
Teresa Bartz said she was “optimistically happy” the case was headed back to court.
“It is the light at the end of the tunnel so that this can finally be put to rest. We can finally move forward and finally have justice for Willy,” said Teresa Bartz.
While more than five years have passed since Bartz’s death, Fairgrieve has yet to stand trial.
He was found unfit in court almost three years ago and has been held at a forensic psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam.
A lot of the testimony at Monday’s hearing focused on Fairgrieve’s ability to communicate and understand proceedings.
There were often long pauses in Fairgrieve’s answers and participants in the hearing spoke very slowly to help him follow what was being said.
However, ultimately both Crown counsel and Fairgrieve’s lawyer argued he should be found fit.
That was a marked change from last year’s fitness hearing when both Fairgrieve’s lawyer and Crown counsel argued he was not fit for trial.
On Monday, defence said Fairgrieve wants to go back to court as soon as possible to address the charge and that his testimony showed he understands the second-degree murder charge and the possible consequences he could face.
After listening to Fairgrieve’s testimony, Crown agreed the accused would be able to meaningfully participate in a court case.
“A return to court does not mean that it will be an easy, swift, or time-efficient trial. However, if Mr. Fairgrieve is well supported with a lot of effort by his counsel and the court, a trial will be able to occur,” the prosecutor told the review board hearing.
After deliberating, the BC Review Board agreed with the lawyers and found Fairgrieve fit for trial.
The case will now be referred back to court which is expected to hold its own fitness hearing.
Fairgrieve said if the case goes to trial, he plans to plead not guilty.