Government announces plans to deal with court backlog

NDP plan to hire more crown prosecutors and court support staff

  • Mar. 9, 2017 9:06 p.m.

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The Government of Alberta plans to make a new investment in the justice system to hire 35 crown prosecutors and an additional 30 support staff.

New funding means 65 staff ultimately would be hired throughout the criminal justice system, including crown prosecutors and court clerks.

These positions will add to the current 15 crown prosecutors that are being recruited right now.

It is not yet known how many positions will be allocated for Red Deer.

“It’s critical that our justice system works well for Albertans and that they have confidence in it. That takes resources, which is why this government is investing in the system. In light of the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in Jordan, this new investment is more important than ever,” said Kathleen Ganley, minister of Justice and Solicitor General.

The Supreme Court’s Jordan decision, which came down in the summer of 2016, limits how long a case can take.

“Additional prosecutors will help ease the current workload pressure facing Crown offices throughout the province. This funding will allow the Prosecution Service to return to full complement and look towards growth in target areas. There is more work to do and together with our partners, we are moving in the right direction,” said Eric Tolppanen, assistant deputy minister with the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service.

The new investment would include an increase of approximately $14.5 million to address court and Crown pressures. This funding will be presented as part of Budget 2017 and is subject to approval by the Legislative Assembly.

There are currently 310 crown prosecutors which would increase to 360 over the next year, including those who appear at first instance bail hearings.

With the new investment, about 30 court staff, including clerks and data entry personnel, would be hired. These new positions would ensure clerks are available for courtrooms, ensure the timely processing of court-related documents and assist the public with their inquiries.

Since the government started Jordan applications tracking on Oct. 25th, 68 Jordan applications have been filed, 15 applications are pending (as of March 8th), 18 applications have been dismissed by the court and six applications have been granted. One has been appealed by the crown. Another 14 applications were abandoned by defence, six matters were proactively stayed by the crown on the basis that they would not survive the Jordan application and nine matters were resolved unrelated to Jordan.

Ganley also announced new guidelines which would see serious and violent cases including sexual assault are prioritized.

“We want to ensure our response is proportionate and that we focus on things that make Alberta safe,” she said. “The triage protocol is explicit – accepting a lesser plea just to save time is not acceptable.”

efawcett@reddeerexpress.com

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