Anyone who thinks our justice system needs some kind of overhaul will be interested in the latest edict from the Supreme Court of Canada. In a decision that criticizes this country’s legal system for what it calls a culture of complacency, the top court has set new rules for an accused’s right to be tried within a reasonable time frame. Any delays beyond the new times will be considered “presumptively unreasonable” and in violation of the accused’s charter rights.
The decision cites cases that took years to go through the courts and what can happen after long periods of time have elapsed is that courts then grant a stay of proceedings which effectively stops cases going forward. This is obviously not good for either the accused that won’t get their day in court or else the Crown that may have been able to have the accused deservedly put away. It appears the Supreme Court’s new rules are aimed at the Crown rather than the accused, which makes sense. If the new time frames are missed due to delays caused by the prosecutors, the Crown will have to have a good argument proving exceptional circumstances. If the delay is caused by the defence team, the time frame deadline doesn’t apply, which is as it should be. Otherwise the accused and their lawyers could drag their feet until a stay is granted, which would really make the justice system look worse than people perceive it to be today.