'It's actually shocking how archaic' Ontario's criminal courts are

Posted
July 10, 2018
Article Source
Toronto Star

From a Toronto Star article: Justice Delayed: Part 1 of 3: The defence lawyer has been in court for nearly an hour, and court staff are still unable to locate the "Information" for his client, a few pieces of paper that outline the charges, but also past and future court dates for the accused -- which are handwritten and not always legible.

The up-to-date Information is not available on a computer. Without it, the case can't be heard.

The lawyer says he'll have to leave a note about the next steps for the case with duty counsel, the legal aid-funded lawyer who can assist accused persons during court appearances. That is, of course, if they ever find the Information. The clerk has called the court support counter more than once but no one is picking up.

It's a busy May morning in the rather humid and chaotic set-date court at Toronto's Old City Hall, possibly the busiest courthouse in Canada, where numerous lawyers, paralegals and self-represented litigants parade in front of the justice of the peace, while a Crown attorney with a stack of files next to him tries to keep the routine appearances moving as quickly as possible.

There are problems. A cracked DVD provided by the Crown as part of its disclosure in one case doesn't work. Missing Informations mean individuals will have to wait even longer for their brief appearance. 

At 11:45 a.m., the justice of the peace apologizes to a man who has been waiting for his case to be heard since 9 a.m. But they have now found the Information in his case. It is then quickly adjourned to a date in June.

"It's actually shocking how archaic the criminal court process is," criminal defence lawyer Annamaria Enenajor told the Star. "One of the biggest revolutions that hit the criminal courts in the last five years is that disclosure no longer came in paper form; it now came on CD.

"This is dinosaur era-type administration. So many times I've had to physically chase my client's Information ... God forbid that one copy gets misplaced."

Delays and the inefficiencies that can cause them have come under heightened scrutiny since the Supreme Court of Canada's landmark 2016 ruling R v. Jordan, which set strict timelines to bring criminal cases to trial: 18 months in provincial court (such as at Old City Hall) and 30 months in Superior Court, which deals with the most serious criminal offences, including murder.

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