WINNIPEG – Possible solutions to congestion in the court system that has so far led to one criminal case being thrown out won’t be coming for at least a couple of months, according to the Minister of Justice.
“We’re certainly aware of it, we’re not sticking our heads in the sand, we are working with all of those across the criminal justice system across Manitoba, everyone is going to be a part of this,” said Heather Stefanson, Minister of Justice, when asked about the case that was thrown out last week.
A man accused of sexually abusing a young girl walked free without a trial when a judge ruled it took too long for his case to get to trial.
Stefanson refused to comment on the specific case but said the review is well underway, “to see where we can find efficiencies within the system to be able to move cases forward in a more efficient and effective manner.”
The case was the first in Manitoba to be thrown out after the Supreme Court changed the rules last year on how long it should take an accused person to be tried.
For higher court matters the benchmark is now 30 months and for provincial offenses it’s 18 months.
“It actually does put some pressure on the crown and the police when they launch an investigation and lay charges to have a case more properly prepared and ready to go forward,” said Michael Weinrath, a criminal justice professor at the University of Winnipeg.
If cases like these continue to be tossed, it could be a powerful motivator for law enforcement to react to the new Supreme Court rules.
Holding back prosecutors from getting their cases to trial in that amount of time is an overburdened justice system, said Weinrath.
“Police and crowns have made a lot of effort to get people awaiting trial locked up if they violate any sort of condition so what we need now is a will within the provincial justice system to say let’s move cases forward and if we can’t move ‘em forward, let’s just withdraw charges and move on,” he said.
Stefanson wouldn’t comment on what aspects of the justice system is being looked at in particular, saying everything is under review.