The Attorney General of Ontario, Chris Bentley says that the courts are on track for processing quicker trials in our criminal courts. While Bentley admits not all courts have met his targets, he said the aim was really to find a way to shake up the system.
One of the challenges we’ve had with our system of justice is that it’s been getting slower – particularly in the criminal area. And, it now takes more than twice as many appearances in court to resolve the average case than it did 18-20 years ago.
Ontario is moving toward faster, focused justice by targeting 30 per cent reductions in the provincial average of days and court appearances needed to complete a criminal case. The province plans to meet its target by June 2012.
In 1992, it took an average of 4.3 court appearances to bring a charge to completion. By 2007, this figure had more than doubled to 9.2 appearances. Over the same period, the average time needed to complete a charge has gone from 115 days to 205 days.
Justice on Target is reversing that trend. Across the province, charges entering the system after Justice on Target (JOT) initiatives (put into place in 2008) are put in place are completed faster than they were before the strategy was launched. This trend is gathering momentum as more sites implement change and new charges move more effectively through the criminal courts. Justice on Target is about making justice just as strong but faster, and reducing the number of unnecessary appearances or adjournments in court.
The goal of JOT our goal is to make sure that 500,000 people are not going to come to court every year simply to put their case over from one day to the next.
The Ontario Bar Association admits there is some progress, but there has not been a reduction of criminal trials, that are actually up in some locations.
There are some significant improvements in Brampton, Kirkland Lake and Timmins. Toronto’s Old City Hall and Ottawa actually saw increases over the same passage of time.
As of 2010, appearances in Kirkland Lake were down almost 45 per cent, in Kingston 18 per cent, in Brampton nearly 17 per cent and in North York 15 per cent.
London saw a reduction of 10 per cent, while Newmarket was down a more modest four per cent.
The number of appearances in Ottawa courts rose by more than one per cent, however, and there was a 15 per cent jump in Espanola.
Overall, 325,000 criminal court appearances were eliminated across the province.
When it came to the number of days a case took, Timmins led the decreases with 32 per cent, followed by Kirkland Lake and Kenora at 25 per cent, and Woodstock at 23 per cent.
Old City Hall in Toronto and Milton were both up around four per cent.