Cold case accused denied bail after nearly 17 months in custody

The Macdonald-Cartier Building at 279 Wellington Street in downtown Kingston is home to the Ontario Court of Justice. Photo by Josie Vallier/Kingstonist.

Accused cold case rapist Lawrence Serson has been denied bail by a Kingston court.

The 81-year-old Serson attended the Ontario Court of Justice in Kingston in person for a bail hearing on Friday, May 10, 2024, after waiting for nearly 17 months behind bars with no progress in his case. Bail was denied, according to a court and client representative from Ministry of the Attorney General – Kingston Court Services Division.

Unfortunately, despite multiple assurances from the courthouse to Kingstonist that it would be shown over Zoom, the hearing was not made available via video stream. When asked about this confusion, a court and client representative confirmed in an email that bail had been denied, but went on, “We are not aware of the confusion involved either. A secondary court was opened that day to hear bail hearings.” 

Serson has made over 40 appearances before various justices of the peace since his arrest in January of 2023.

In an effort to speed things along on Friday, Dec. 29, 2023, Crown attorney Shawn Eagles asked if he could address the court on record. The judge allowed it. At that time, Eagles pointed out that since Serson’s arrest in January 2023, the matter had been going on for nearly a year, with an earlier defence team or teams looking for medical evidence to assist in a bail hearing. Eagles alluded to previous issues that had come to a head “earlier this month” (December 2023) and said that with new counsel appearing on Serson’s behalf, the case seemed to be “back to square one.”

In 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada made a landmark decision in R v Jordan, which set strict time limits for criminal trials. According to this ruling, cases in provincial courts should be completed within 18 months from when charges are laid, and cases in superior courts should be completed within 30 months. If these time frames are not met, the charges against the accused may be stayed.

In his numerous appearances throughout the year after his arrest, Serson did not have legal representation present and appeared confused and frustrated, often weeping. He also appeared to have been sick, possibly with COVID-19. He had obvious difficulty understanding the proceedings and often complained he could not hear the voices of the justice of the peace and other court employees.

Serson was arrested by the Kingston Police Major Crime Unit on January 18, 2023, in Hamilton, Ontario. In a media release dated Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, police said that in 1994, at the age of 52, Serson was residing in Kingston when he unlawfully entered the residence of a 44-year-old female who lived alone.

“After Serson gained entry into the victim’s apartment he viciously attacked her while she slept. Serson overpowered the victim by confining her before violently sexually assaulting her,” police stated, adding, “Further forensic evidence/DNA was located and this DNA assisted the Major Crime Unit in identifying Serson and ultimately in solving this heinous incident.”

Serson first appeared in court in Kingston on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, when he was charged with: 

  • sexual assault causing bodily harm,
  • breaking and entering with intent,
  • assault,
  • uttering threats, and
  • forcible confinement.

At this most recent court appearance on Friday, May 10, 2024, Serson was denied bail, and the case was adjourned to Friday, May 31, 2024.

Kingstonist will continue provide coverage of this ongoing case as more information becomes available.

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