I want to provide you with an update on how the Covid 19 Pandemic is currently affecting cases in terms of trial delay in the Ontario criminal court system.
It’s a very interesting question because as you are aware from March of this spring until July 6th the courts were paused. There were no trials going on in our system and this is for both the Ontario Court of Justice level and the Superior Court of Justice level. What was that doing? It was building up a backlog of cases that are now being set for trial.
The courts reopened on July 6th and what happened was the Ministry of Attorney General renovated a number of courtrooms across the province. I believe it was about 93 in the Ontario Court of Justice lower level and in the 50’s, 53 or so in the Superior Court of Justice. So that’s still a limited number of courtrooms. So we can only accommodate so many trials right now. By the way, they are continuing to renovate safely. They are adding courtrooms. This is happening every month. They are trying to get back to a full complement of open court houses and courtrooms during Covid across the province.
So the concern then is will there be delay in the system? You are entitled to a trial within a reasonable period of time. You know there can’t be extensive delays and delays are 18 months in the Ontario Court of Justice and 30 months for more serious cases in the Superior Court of Justice. If those timelines are extended, a lawyer can bring a stay application to get basically a case thrown out for unreasonable trial delay under the Charter. So because of this the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Crowns across the province have said look, we’ve got concerns, we don’t know if it’s going to come to fruition. It’s early to tell yet, so we really don’t know if all this trial delay is going to happen, but what they are doing-which is good news for our clients and people who have been charged across the province-there is a lot of reasonable resolutions going out right now. The courts are exercising some degree of leniency asking the Crowns to come to joint submissions with defence counsel for sentences that are lower than normal in many cases. So this is what’s going on. That perception of the possibility of future trial deal is causing very good plea deals and it’s a message that I’ve sent out to my clients. It’s a great time to hire a lawyer to either 1, you know, have your trial, get it set or 2, explore whether you are looking for leniency from the crown and it’s a great time for that right across the province.