Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Report on Commission on Wrongful Conviction Applications

The Canadian government recently published a report of the independent commission to consider wrongful conviction applications.

The report was submitted to the Minister of Justice by the Honourable Harry LaForme and the Honourable Juanita Westmoreland-Traoré in November 2021.

Consultations focused on the creation of an independent commission in Canada to consider miscarriage of justice applications. The report summarizes the input received during the consultations on various reform options and provides recommendations on the path forward.

As the Executive Summary explains:

"The current system has failed to provide remedies for women, Indigenous or Black people in the same proportion as they are represented in Canada’s prisons. We believe that the new commission must be proactive and reach out to potential applicants, including Indigenous people, Black people, women and others who may have reasons to distrust a criminal justice system that had convicted them and denied their appeals (...)"

"The new commission must be systemic in the sense that it should be concerned about both the correction of miscarriages of justice and their prevention. Like the New Zealand Commission, the commission should make its decisions public and have a mandate to examine and research general matters that contribute to miscarriages of justice (...) "

"The second fundamental policy choice is that the commission should be as independent and arm’s-length from government as possible and adequately funded. In taking over the Minister of Justice’s power to direct new trials and appeals, the independent commission will exercise unique powers. If it is to have the power to require the independent judiciary to re-hear cases, it should be treated by government as far as possible in the same manner as the independent judiciary (...)"

"A final fundamental policy choice is that the new commission should be concerned with all miscarriages of justice and not only cases where factual innocence can be established. Proof of factual innocence is often not possible in non-DNA cases. Most convictions including many wrongful convictions of women and less serious cases do not involve DNA. We recognize that factual innocence is very important to exonerees and Innocence Projects. Nevertheless, we do not believe that the commission should be limited by the approach taken by voluntary and poorly funded organizations."

"The current Ministerial review regime focuses on whether a miscarriage of justice likely occurred and can include applications related to dangerous and long-term offender designations. We recommend that this mandate be continued and extended somewhat to include other cases where applicants are serving a sentence and raise new matters of significance. This is a more restrictive sentencing mandate than the English, Scottish and New Zealand Commissions, but one we believe is justified and manageable."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:14 pm


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