Provincial Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette is making legislative changes to try and reduce a backlog of provincial court cases.
The minister is granting more power to justices of the peace in order to ease the burden on Quebec court judges. Soon, they will have the power to set bail hearings and process arraignments. This will allow up to 20 judges to focus more on criminal trials, and less on administrative procedures.
“We have a clear work plan together with all the partners of the justice system to make sure that each case will be heard in time by the court,” Jolin-Barrette said.
Jolin-Barrette fears some Quebecers have lost faith in the province’s justice system, due to a backlog of thousands of cases causing major delays in court.
“We think about the victim, because they do the choice to call the police, to meet a prosecutor to say what happens to them, so we have a responsibility to give them confidence in the justice system,” Jolin-Barrette said.
Other changes Jolin-Barrette is making include allowing more remote court appearances for those accused, saving time transporting detained prisoners to and from court.
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The minister also appointed 14 new Quebec court judges last month. Judges also struck an agreement with the government last year, promising to sit more days and hear more cases.
The Supreme Court of Canada’s Jordan decision established timelines in which trials must be heard. If not heard within 18 months, cases could be dismissed.
Last year, 83 criminal cases in Quebec were subject to a stay of proceedings because of delays. Crown prosecutors abandoned a further 272 cases.
Jolin-Barrette says those numbers are unacceptable.
“We have our serious concern because each case that is dismissed of the justice system because of the delay is a bad situation for the victim,” he said.
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The minister consulted with all major players in the justice system before making the changes, he said.
Crown prosecutors say they are promising to work closely with all partners to try and speed up the justice process.
“There are concrete measures put forward in the plan that will make sure the cases are ready and that we speak to each other and that will reduce the delay,” said Sophie Lamarre, an assistant director at the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions.
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