Justice system need solutions, says critic
Our provincial justice system has been under attack since March of this year by the very people designated to protect it, the provincial government. Budget 2013 axed services and jobs that were vital in delivering justice to the people of this province. Government has continually broken their promise to protect frontline services, and it’s evident from delayed court cases, lack of staffing, and cuts to basic services that the government is failing the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador.
As part of ensuring effective and efficient justice services, the government should be conducting comprehensive reviews. In 2006 the government committed to a review of public prosecutions, which still hasn’t been completed. Since it was never done, there was no compelling evidence to justify the cuts announced in Budget 2013.
Recently, the government promised a review for the Legal Aid system and the Sheriff ’s Office, but the minister has since revealed that there is no plan in place for the reviews and no timeline on when they will start. It’s shocking, but not surprising that the government was swift to make a promise, but not so quick on the uptake to make a plan that would see this promise through.
Another result of this government’s inability to evaluate and manage the justice system is the closure of circuit courts across the province. In the House of Assembly it was revealed during discussions on budget estimates that the government will collectively save $50,000 by closing the circuit courts.
What they didn’t consider is the
travel expenses, child care, loss of work and other costs that will all come out of the pockets of residents who have a right to access justice. The elimination of circuit courts in many areas of the province will delay justice for hundreds who will have to travel long distances for their day in court.
The government could have found the $50,000 to save the circuit courts; starting with some cost-cutting measures at the top senior management levels within Confederation Building. The government’s priority should rest with allowing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians access to justice, a basic human right.
The government cannot afford to keep making decisions without proper consultation and in complete disregard for the impact and outcome on the people of our province. Efficiency means more than just saving money; it also means delivering programs and services that will produce longterm benefits.
The government should consult first, evaluate and then make decisions based on those recommendations and findings. How can we move forward without knowing what works and what doesn’t? It’s a disservice to the people of our province when the government makes hasty decisions that affect the way justice is delivered.
I am calling on the justice minister to follow through and find solutions to outstanding issues in the justice system because in their words, justice delayed is justice denied.
— Andrew Parsons is the Opposition Justice Critic and MHA for Burgeo-La Poile