The provincial court system is looking into the idea of how it can use technology in the future to address a growing workload.
In the latest report from the Provincial Auditor of Saskatchewan, Judy Ferguson notes pressures on the court system continue. She said her office also has to continue to put pressure on the justice ministry to spur change.
“What we’re asking for them to do is to do a better job of figuring out what their needs are from a court perspective and to do a better job of forecasting what those needs will be,” said Ferguson.
Asked whether the issue could be related to staffing levels, the auditor said she can’t make that determination and that it’s up to the ministry to decide if more staff are needed.
For now, the government has leaned towards technology, specifically on using more video conferencing in 2018.
Executive director of court services Glennis Bihun said it’s not a new concept, having been in existence for about the last 10 years. The plan is to expand it.
“The piece that will be new is the expansion to private defence to be able to use the equipment or the technology to be able to talk with their clients pre-court,” she said.
Bihun said they’ve been considering how they might utilize technology such as this to allow defence counsel or the legal aid commission to have these sorts of conversations with their clients prior to court.
This, she continued, could possibly minimize the number of appearances or adjournments that might arise because a defence lawyer hadn’t been able to speak to their client before the appearance.
Some individuals have literally appeared in court dozens of times before anything significant to their case materializes.
She believes this kind of technology could save the time and resources needed to transport prisoners, along with the effort needed to check them in and out.
The justice ministry had recently noted that since 2010-2011 the number of individuals on bail and on remand had grown by 83 per cent and 74 per cent, respectively.