When the Supreme Court of Canada directed judges to start tossing out serious criminal cases because it was taking too much time to get to trial, my colleague, Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, took action.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms stipulates that criminal trials take place within a reasonable amount of time. But, in situations where an excessive amount of time has elapsed, a judge may choose to “stay” the charges, with the case not proceeding to trial.
Seeing an accused walk free from a serious charge owing to lengthy delays in a criminal trial leaves victims, their family, and society frustrated that justice was not served.
This is why Minister Naqvi was in Kitchener recently, to detail sweeping new supports aimed at making the criminal justice system faster and fairer.
To address the backlog, Kitchener will see funding for a pilot project for ten new bail beds at the House of Friendship, providing safe and supervised housing for accused people who require supportive supervision in the community.
Deciding when to grant or deny bail can be very complex and is based on specific details of each individual case. The key factors for the Crown when considering whether to recommend bail is public safety, attendance in court, the rights of the accused, and public confidence in the administration of justice.
When vulnerable people are charged with minor offences, community-based solutions can be an effective alternative to the criminal justice system. Connected with the right resources and supports, some people are more likely to achieve stability in our community, and will be less likely to commit further offences.
To facilitate faster bail decisions and early resolutions, Kitchener-Waterloo will see a new Crown Attorney hired, dedicated to bail vetting. A new duty counsel bail coordinator in the Kitchener courthouse will help expedite the bail process to assure that meaningful decisions are made.
To help reduce the time-to-trial, two new assistant Crown Attorneys will be hired for Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph.
The Bail Verification and Supervision Program will be enhanced by increasing eligibility for services, and improving support for clients with mental health issues.
Of the 13 new judges announced in December of 2016, one of those judges will be assigned to the Kitchener Courthouse.
And, to provide assistance for jurors in difficult cases, the province has introduced the Juror Support Program. Jurors exposed to difficult information and material during a trial or coroner’s inquest will have access to confidential counselling, with no out-of-pocket expenses. Jurors who have completed jury service and are seeking counselling support can call 1-844-JUROR-ON (1-844-587-6766).
These measures will improve our criminal justice system, create jobs, and keep our communities safe.
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