Tuesday, June 12, 2012

National Post Series on Ontario's Crowded Justice System

The National Post newspaper has published a three-part series on the challenges facing the court system in the province of Ontario:
  • Courting disaster? The long, long wait for justice in Ontario (June 9, 2012): "Despite efforts by the provincial Ministry of the Attorney-General to speed up the criminal court system, which receives more than half a million charges in dozens of courthouses annually, persistent backlogs continue to fuel frustration among lawyers, judges, accused persons and members of the public. This month marks the deadline for the ministry’s four-year push to slash by 30% the average number of appearances and days required to complete a criminal case, but the latest numbers show the province has achieved barely a fraction of that goal, reducing appearances by about 6% and days by about 1%. Though the province’s so-called Justice on Target strategy continues past the June benchmark, experts and insiders say it is failing to tackle some of the fundamental problems within Ontario’s $400-million court system."
  • Courting disaster: What do you do with repeat offenders? (June 11, 2012): " 'It’s not uncommon to see someone come in with a criminal record in the three digits, whether that be just making the three-digit mark or the high 100s,' said Toronto Police Det.-Sgt. Brian Kelly, a veteran of the force (...) One veteran Crown attorney calls such offenders 'the rounders,' noting they typically plead guilty early and receive a short sentence only to get out and immediately breach probation, in what is essentially a 'revolving door system.' (...) Experts and justice-system insiders are divided on how to deal with 'the rounders,' with some calling for longer sentences or American-style 'three-strikes' laws, and others maintaining that will not fix the fundamental social problems giving rise to career criminals. Many repeat offenders suffer from mental illness or addiction problems, and commit crimes to feed those addictions, Det.-Sgt. Kelly noted. Measures outside of custodial sentences, such as drug and mental-health treatment programs, are an important aspect of the system, he said, but they are not always enough.
    Courting disaster: How increased digitization of court records could streamline system (June 12, 2012): "Lawyers file thick binders of materials at trial. Those looking to attend court hearings in Ontario must telephone to confirm dates, and paper sheets are posted inside the courthouse each morning with room numbers. Fully staffed court hearings are required for simple matters such as setting trial dates. All of these things consume unnecessary time and resources, while in other provinces — like Alberta, where lawyers can book trials via BlackBerry — such tasks have moved to the electronic realm. Ontario’s system, experts say, remains at least a decade behind other Canadian jurisdictions and has become an embarrassment to the administration of justice in this province."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:51 pm


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