WINNIPEG – It is a precedent setting decision from the Supreme Court designed to get the slow wheels of justice turning a little quicker.
The high court has set new rules for how quickly an accused person should get to a trial.
By a tight 5-4 vote, the court passed guidelines that say anyone facing charges should have their trial within a 1.5 years in a lower court. Or 2.5 years in a higher court.
Local lawyer Bob Sokalski says this is a very significant ruling.
“This is a game changer and it will require more money. The Supreme Court has said never mind it will require more money, Canadians are titled under the Charter to a more efficient, expeditiously run system.”
He says this sends a clear message to everyone involved in the justice system.
“Including Crown prosecutors, defence council and the court system and administrators that things were just going along at a snail’s pace that it was going along until the Supreme Court said literally, enough is enough,” he said.
Some of the justices who voted against the new rules are worried this could lead to thousands of convictions being tossed out.
A spokesperson for the Manitoba government says it is studying the decision to see if any changes need to made to our justice system to make sure we’re in compliance.
According to a briefing note to the Minister of Justice from the spring, there are a number of causes, including vacancies in the judiciary. There are judges needed to fill open positions on Provincial Court and Queen’s Bench. There are too many people representing themselves in court, which delays proceedings.
Those delays have also contributed to overcrowding at the Remand Centre.
The province is working on ways to speed up justice, including using video technology for court appearances and trying to resolve property crimes through restorative justice outside the court system.
Statement From Manitoba Government Spokesperson:
“Departmental officials are studying the Supreme Court’s decisions to identify how they might impact Manitoba’s criminal justice system and to determine what changes might be required to ensure compliance with the decisions. The issue of delay has been a significant issue across Canada, and our government is committed to ensuring that Manitobans have timely, effective and efficient access to justice.”