I just wanted to provide you with an update on how COVID-19 is currently affecting in-custody cases in the Ontario criminal court system. So first of all, in March, as you are probably aware, the court system was effectively paused; criminal trials were going on, so they didn’t resume until, July 6th. So because of this there were a lot of people languishing in jails, who hadn’t received bail, that’s an in custody case. I’ll define it as they weren’t getting their trial dates; was frustrating, and cases weren’t being moved for in-custody people. So, what’s going on now in October? I just wanted to update on that, first of all, what does continue, if someone is charged with a criminal offence, currently, the Justice of the Peace is more apt to grant them bail and the Crown Attorneys are more apt to consent to their release, because we want to limit the people first of all, sitting in prisons, in county jails, with the possibility of contracting COVID.
We also want to move cases through the system. With trials now resuming, thankfully, people who had their trial dates set, are having their trials now. So that’s a good thing. They’re presumed innocent and trials are proceeding right now. That’s great, but the other positive development which occurred this summer, and also still occurs now, is this. The Crowns is very concerned, the Public Prosecution Service across Ontario, is very concerned about delays in our court system.
You have a right to a trial within a reasonable time period. So because of this perception, and we don’t know if it’s going to emerge just yet, too early days to tell, but there’s been a cascading back log of cases so it very well may, if there’s a resolution and a plea deal to be made what’s happening is accused people in custody are getting reasonably good deals right now, so it’s a good time for a defence lawyer to negotiate good deals for their client and the Crowns recognize that they must move these cases. Now are they giving deals away, selling the farm so to speak? No, these are reasonable resolutions where a trial does not take place; the person is still getting ab appropriate sentence but it does tend to be much more lenient. At least, I shouldn’t say much more or at least more lenient than normal. So it is appropriate; it has been approved by judges and it’s been approved by the Crown Attorney’s office, the Ministry of Attorney General. Certainly defence counsel are taking advantage of this, and certainly for people who are in custody, it’s a great time to hire a lawyer, to take advantage of this leniency in the system right now during COVID.