Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Senate Committee Report on Combatting Delays in the Justice System

Last week, the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs released a comprehensive report on how to reduce the strain on Canada's clogged courtrooms.

"Canada’s criminal justice system is in urgent need of reform. Delays in criminal proceedings have become a significant problem as it takes too long for many criminal cases to reach a final disposition. Lengthy trials and multiple adjournments are particularly hard on victims and their families, as well as on accused persons, whose stress can be worsened as the time between the laying of charges and the end of the trial stretches out month after month. When these delays become very lengthy, courts may find that the accused’s constitutional right to a trial within a reasonable time (as guaranteed by section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) has been breached. If this happens, the only judicial remedy available in Canada is an order for a stay of proceedings, which ends the process without a completed trial on the merits of the case (...) "
"During the committee’s study, it became clear that the causes and effects of delays are many and varied. The Supreme Court has already identified that a primary cause is a culture of complacency that has permitted unnecessary procedures and adjournments, inefficient practices, and inadequate institutional resources to become accepted as the norm. Several witnesses cautioned the committee that there would be no one simple, quick fix to solve the delays crisis. There are broad, systemic changes needed, and smaller, more targeted reforms that will also help. Many agreed that what is needed most is a cultural shift among justice system participants that moves them away from complacency and towards efficiency, cooperation and fairness (...)"
The report includes 50 recommendations, of which 13 have been identified as priorities. Among them:
  • alternative remedies for dealing with delays aside from a stay of proceedings should be added to the Criminal Code in order to create more just outcomes and permit greater flexibility in dealing with delays
  • the Criminal Code should be amended to provide greater opportunity for procedural matters that take up valuable court time and judicial resources to be handled by other judicial officers
  • the court system should restrict or perhaps eliminate preliminary inquiries
  • the Justice minister should prioritize implementing the recommendations made in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s report on the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools that pertain to justice matters in order to address the unacceptably high number of Indigenous accused persons and offenders in our criminal justice system
  • the Justice minister should coordinate a Canada-wide strategy to ensure that adequate health-related services and alternative measures are in place within the justice system to serve, treat and rehabilitate persons with mental illnesses, including addictions
  • the Justice minister work with the provinces to find better ways of dealing with certain offences that are taking up too much court time. This includes administration of justice offences that represent 23 per cent of cases completed in adult criminal court (breaches of release conditions or failure to appear in court). Steps must be taken to ensure that the conditions imposed on accused persons are appropriate and related to the original charges, and to reduce the impact these proceedings are having on delays. Impaired driving offences represent about ten percent of the most common offences tried in court. Provincial schemes to deal with drivers with lower levels of blood alcohol concentration through administrative penalties (instead of criminal sanction) show promise in reducing the demands on our court system

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:04 pm


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