I’m here to talk to you about how the COVID-19 pandemic has effected in custody criminal cases in our Ontario criminal court system. And I want to just define in custody, so in custody would be a person who is charged with a criminal offence, arrested and did not get bail. In other words, their sitting, languishing in jail waiting for their guilty plea or trial. As you are probably aware over the course of the summer since March, our court system was paused to a certain extent at least, and people who had trial schedules, say a murder case, sexual assault, other case, drug cases, who waiting for their trial for months and sometimes a year or two, they couldn’t have their trial, so that was a tremendous, emotional, psychological, worry and we were very concerned about the pandemic getting into our jail system. So what effect did that have? Well it had a number of effects. First of all, people who were charged or arrested with a criminal offence, Justice of the Peaces and Judges were more incline to grant them bail after a bail hearing.
There was some degree of leniency there. Because we were trying to get people out of the jail system so we didn’t’ have the pandemic spread in the jail. So that was one effect. Another, the Crown Attorneys were concerned about people languishing in custody and concerned about the perception of delay because trials were getting backlogged. So certainly, good deals were being offered. There was some degree of leniency being offered. For example, a person facing months in jail, many months, they might reduce that sentence slightly or by some months, although there were a lot of great deals being offered to remove this backlog. The real worry were of course, people sitting there, “well I want to have a trial, I’m innocent, I deserve my right to a trial” Those trial could be, taken, you know gone, they weren’t being done, so their sitting there languishing there. Now on July sixth we started trials in the Ontario Court of Justice and also the Superior Court of Justice so in a way, most of the court houses they’ve renovated some of the trial courts. So now, in custody accused, that is people who are sitting waiting in our county jails, they can resume their trials on July sixth, but the problem is again, we only have a limited number of room in the courtrooms, the Crown Attorneys are going to have to prioritize those cases and delay may ultimately emerge. We don’t know for sure but there’s a real perception of that. So it has been quite a problem for people sitting in custody waiting, a lot of worry, a lot of psychological effect, but on the other side of the coin, there’s been a good benefit to them that weren’t released on bail, and there’s been greater deals and thankfully at least our criminal system is starting up again at least in a limited way. And hopefully we can move the trials to an early resolution very soon.