A common criticism of the justice system is how long it can take for a case to wind its way through Canada’s courts.
Manitoba is looking to reduce delays and improve time to trial. Last year, its attorney general and three chief justices asked the federal government to overhaul preliminary hearings.
The Manitoba government proposed a four-year pilot project that would see an out-of-court discovery process replace preliminary hearings before a trial, with hopes of addressing the “unacceptable and unreasonable delays that currently exist in (Canada’s) criminal justice system.”
Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gord Wyant said this idea first came forward when the provincial justice ministers met in 2012.
“We really don’t have a problem in Saskatchewan when it comes to time to trial, or at least in respect of the deadlines that have been out on us by the Supreme Court,” Wyant said.
The minister pointed to the Supreme Court ruling on the Jordan decision, which put a limit of 18 months on the length of a criminal case in provincial courts from the charge to the end of trial.
Wyant noted Saskatchewan might not have the problems other provinces do in getting cases before a trial judge, but there’s still room to improve the system for efficiencies.
“Just because we’re getting them done in a time frame that’s what the Supreme Court has set, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s good either,” he said.
“The sooner you can get a matter to trial; the sooner justice gets served – not only for society, but victims as well.”
According to Wyant, three cases in Saskatchewan have been thrown out for not getting through court in time – including two impaired driving cases.
“Nobody in this country wants to see serious charges being thrown out of court because of Crown or court delays,” he said. “That doesn’t serve society well at all.”
The justice minister said while the province isn’t at the point to scrap preliminary hearings altogether, there are other things he’d consider – such as making the hearings either discretionary, by request only or restricting them to more serious offences.
– With files from the Canadian Press.