Fed­eral jus­tice min­is­ter out­lines stream­lin­ing to re­duce court de­lays

Vancouver Sun - - CITY - KIM BOLAN kbolan@post­media.com

Canada’s jus­tice min­is­ters plan to tackle court de­lays by re­duc­ing the num­ber of pre­lim­i­nary in­quiries, chang­ing bail rules and re­form­ing manda­tory min­i­mum sen­tences.

Fed­eral Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wilson-Ray­bould laid out the pro­pos­als Fri­day at a Van­cou­ver news con­fer­ence af­ter a meet­ing here with her pro­vin­cial coun­ter­parts.

“Min­sters agreed that there was a need for sub­stan­tive ac­tion to re­form the pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry regime to in­crease ef­fi­cien­cies, in the bail regime to ad­dress chal­lenges cre­ated by the high num­ber of ad­min­is­tra­tive jus­tice of­fences,” Wilson-Ray­bould said.

“We dis­cussed the re­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of some of­fences to pro­vide greater flex­i­bil­ity to use sim­pler and faster court pro­cesses.”

And she said the min­is­ters also dis­cussed how to bet­ter man­age cases be­fore the courts “to en­sure the pri­or­i­ti­za­tion and care­ful bal­anc­ing of court re­sources.”

The pro­pos­als stem from the Supreme Court of Canada’s “Jor­dan” rul­ing last year that set lim­its of 30 months for the com­ple­tion of pros­e­cu­tions at the Supreme Court level and 18 months for pro­vin­cial court cases un­less there are “ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances.”

Since then, dozens of peo­ple in B.C. have filed ap­pli­ca­tions to have their charges stayed over de­lays.

Some have been suc­cess­ful. Oth­ers have not.

A Kelowna Supreme Court judge dis­missed a Jor­dan ap­pli­ca­tion from the ac­cused killers of gang­ster Jonathan Ba­con de­spite the trial con­tin­u­ing more than four years af­ter their ar­rest.

Jus­tice Al­lan Bet­ton said in a rul­ing re­leased last week that “ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances” ex­isted in the case be­cause a num­ber of key wit­nesses close to the mur­der plot agreed to tes­tify only af­ter ini­tial trial dates had been set, de­lay­ing the pros­e­cu­tion.

Ear­lier this month, high-pro­file B.C. Hells An­gel Larry Amero was re­leased by a Que­bec judge af­ter his co­caine con­spir­acy case was thrown out be­cause the case took al­most five years to get to trial.

Wilson-Ray­bould couldn’t say ex­actly how the min­is­ters’ pro­pos­als would speed up com­plex or­ga­nized crime pros­e­cu­tions that usu­ally pro­ceed by way of di­rect in­dict­ment, mean­ing there is no pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing.

But she said gen­er­ally the pro­posed changes would “en­sure that cases that are be­fore the court pro­ceed in as ex­pe­di­tious and as fair of a process with­out un­rea­son­able de­lays.

“This is the in­ten­tion of all of the mea­sures that we talked about in or­der to en­sure that we are tak­ing those bold steps to re­duce the de­lays,” she said.

Fed­eral Public Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale said or­ga­nized crime re­mains a top pri­or­ity for the RCMP.

“Ob­vi­ously we need to make sure that the RCMP have the re­sources and the tools to be ef­fec­tive in their in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” Goodale said, adding there is “a huge ju­di­cial chal­lenge” con­vert­ing in­tel­li­gence gath­ered by law en­force­ment to “us­able as ev­i­dence in court.”

“There is a crim­i­nal law chal­lenge that we all need to work on to­gether which in­volves all ju­ris­dic­tions and all lev­els of govern­ment and all law en­force­ment agen­cies,” he said.

Goodale also said that im­ple­men­ta­tion of new cannabis leg­is­la­tion will take bil­lions out of the pock­ets of or­ga­nized crime.

NICK PROCAYLO

Last year’s “Jor­dan” rul­ing by Canada’s top court set lim­its on the amount of time for com­ple­tion of court cases. Since then, dozens of peo­ple in B.C. have ap­plied to have charges stayed over de­lays.

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