The Alberta government wants to hire 35 more Crown prosecutors and 30 more support staff to help deal with court backlogs. The province said the new positions will add to the 15 Crown prosecutors being recruited right now. The new support staff hires will include court clerks and data entry staff.
Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, announced the extra positions Thursday morning while unveiling the province’s plans to help address criminal case backlogs and improve the administration of justice in Alberta’s courts.
Several people have spoken out recently about Alberta’s over-burdened legal system.
In September 2016, Chief Justice Neil Wittman of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta said the lack of judicial resources is getting to a critical juncture. He said a lack of judicial and non-judicial staff has been a chronic problem for years.
Last fall a judge threw out a first-degree murder case because it took too long to get to trial, prompting a defence lawyer to claim that a shortage of judges and legal aid funding is “choking” Alberta’s court system.
Just last week, the Crown prosecutor’s office in Edmonton stayed more 15 criminal cases, citing a “lack of prosecution services.” The move prompted the Alberta Crown Attorneys’ Association to call on the province to lift a hiring freeze on Crown prosecutors and add at least 50 new positions.
A Supreme Court decision, which came down in the summer of 2016, limits how long a case can take.
The landmark R. vs Jordan ruling set out a new framework for determining whether a criminal trial has been unreasonably delayed.
According to the framework, an unreasonable delay would be presumed should proceedings – from the date of charge to conclusion of a trial – exceed 18 months in provincial court, or 30 months in superior court.
“In light of the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in Jordan, this new investment is more important than ever,” Ganley said.
The province said since it started Jordan applications tracking on Oct. 25, 2016:
- 68 Jordan applications have been filed
- 15 applications are pending (as of March 8, 2017)
- 18 applications have been dismissed by the court
- 6 applications have been granted. One has been appealed by the Crown
- 14 applications were abandoned by defence
- 6 matters were proactively stayed by the Crown on the basis that they would not survive the Jordan application
- 9 matters were resolved unrelated to Jordan
More to come…
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