The time to act on court delays is now.
With serious criminal charges stayed as a result of court delays, Senators are looking for new ways to turn the wheels of justice a little quicker.
This week at the Canadian Bar Association Legal Conference, Senators George Baker, P.C., Denise Batters, Q.C., and Claude Carignan, P.C., unveiled an interim report on court delays from the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, entitled Delaying Justice Is Denying Justice: An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada.
“Accused people in Canada have the right to be tried in a reasonable time and yet criminal proceedings remain slow, creaking, lumbering ordeals,” said Senator Baker, deputy chair of the committee.
“We have now a crisis situation in this country, in which you’re going to see tens of thousands of persons who are guilty of serious crimes, released, acquitted! In other words, they will no longer go to jail for what they’ve been convicted of, simply because we have not made the proper changes to procedures relating to court operations.”
In response to the urgent need to reduce court delays, the report offers practical and achievable remedies to restore movement to a system paralyzed by complacency.
“All governments will need to play a role to help minimize delays,” said Senator Batters.
“Failure to act will lead to criminal charges being stayed, to the further traumatization of victims and to a loss of public confidence in the Canadian justice system.”
Senator Carignan noted the many areas that need improvement.
“This is 2016. It’s about time to catch up on the technology side. So there are a number of things that need changing. Training, salaries, other options to increase the retention rate of Crown prosecutors because they’re overwhelmed,” explained Senator Carignan.
“I think the system is cracking at several points, if not everywhere; interventions are needed at multiple levels.”
The committee will release a comprehensive report on court delays in the spring of 2017. However, the urgency of the situation cries out for solutions that can be implemented quickly. The four recommendations contained in this interim report could meaningfully improve the administration of justice in Canada.
“The time to act on court delays is now. We can’t afford to wait — justice will suffer,” said Senator Batters.