Quebec Crown is demanding that criminal cases be prioritized so they aren’t tossed around over delays

    The Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP) says cases should be prioritized as trial deadlines approach.  (Josée Ducharme/Radio-Canada - photo credit)

The Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales (DPCP) says cases should be prioritized as trial deadlines approach. (Josée Ducharme/Radio-Canada – photo credit)

Quebec prosecutors are demanding that criminal cases be prioritized so certain types of crimes don’t slip through the cracks.

According to a statement from the Federal Court of Justice, cases of murder, serious bodily harm, sexual and marital violence and the abuse of children and the elderly will be given priority from now on if there is a risk of legal deadlines Directeur des poursuites criminelles et penales (DPCP).

The Crown wants to ensure these types of serious crimes are not suspended due to legal delays, said a memo sent out last Thursday.

The memo cites the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Jordan, which sets deadlines by which trials must be heard once charges are brought.

Defense attorney Charles Coté says other cases will likely have to be dropped because of delays, such as “minor crimes, petty thefts, mischief, crimes against property that don’t have much value, some financial crimes that don’t require much attention because of the amount of money.” .”

Some nonviolent crimes can go unheard

In the memo, the DPCP says, “It remains in the public interest that other cases are ultimately conducted to maintain public order, safeguard public safety and public confidence in the judicial system.”

Nonviolent crimes, such as fraud or drug trafficking, can no longer be a DPCP priority under the new guidelines.

According to the memo, however, files outside the new framework could still be considered a priority depending on the seriousness of the crime in question and the prevalence of that type of file in the region concerned.

For example, a case involving the use or trafficking of firearms, drug trafficking, or some form of organized crime within a community struggling with the consequences of such illegal behavior would remain a priority, the memo said.

In November, the Justice Department said nearly a third of the 160,000 criminal cases expected in 2023 would be dropped due to delays.

The Montreal police service, the SPVM, sent out a statement on Friday saying it was “deeply concerned” by the DPCP’s new guidelines.

“This has an impact on the victims as well as on the work of the police, investigators and prosecutors,” the statement said.

Bar president blames lack of funding

Catherine Claveau, President of the Quebec Bar Association, has spoken out strongly against the DPCP’s new guidelines. She urges the provincial government to hire more judges to deal with the backlog of non-trial cases that could be thrown out due to long delays.

“Every citizen who is a victim, witness or otherwise involved in a criminal and criminal prosecution, even an accused person, has their own record and every record is important to that person,” she said.

“All of this stems from a major problem related to the underfunding of the judiciary [system]. There is a lack of judges nationwide. There are cases that are piling up and that lead to longer delays. It undermines trust in the justice system.”

Sylvain Roy-Roussel/Radio Canada

Sylvain Roy-Roussel/Radio Canada

Chief Justice Lucie Rondeau calls for 41 additional justices for the Quebec court. The province’s justice minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, previously responded that the government had already hired 29 additional judges compared to 2016.

Claveau said Quebec would not experience such a backlog of cases if the government invested in hiring more judges, but a spokesman for Jolin-Barette said the problem was not due to a lack of resources.

The speaker blames Rondeau’s decision to reduce the number of hours that judges hear cases in court.

Since September, the judges of the Court of Quebec have met every other day and deliberated the rest of the time. Previously, they sat two days out of three.

“We have always said that this decision could have serious consequences in terms of judicial delays and ultimately directly for the victims,” ​​said Jolin-Barette.

Both sides are working with a former judge to facilitate discussions on the matter.


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