1. Introduction

When an innocent person is found guilty of a criminal offence, there has clearly been a miscarriage of justice.

A miscarriage of justice may be suspected where new information surfaces which casts serious doubt on whether a convicted person received a fair trial – for example, where important information has not been disclosed to the defence.

Since 1892, the Minister of Justice has had the power, in one form or another, to review a criminal conviction under federal law to determine whether there may have been a miscarriage of justice.

Currently, the conviction review process begins when a person submits an application for ministerial review (miscarriages of justice), also known as a “conviction review application.”

The application for ministerial review must be supported by “new matters of significance” – usually important new information or evidence that was not previously considered by the courts. If the Minister is satisfied that those matters provide a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred, the Minister may grant the convicted person a remedy and return the case to the courts – either referring the case to a court of appeal to be heard as a new appeal, or directing that a new trial be held.

The Minister’s decision that there is a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred in a case does not amount to a declaration that the convicted person is innocent. Rather, such a decision leads to a case being returned to the judicial system, where the relevant legal issues may be determined by the courts according to law.

Under section 696.5 of the Criminal Code, the Minister of Justice is required to submit an annual report to Parliament regarding applications for ministerial review (miscarriages of justice) within six months of the end of the fiscal year. This is the eighth annual report, and it covers the period April 1, 2009, to March 31, 2010. Under the regulations, the report must address the following matters:

  • the number of applications for ministerial review made to the Minister;
  • the number of applications that have been abandoned or that are incomplete;
  • the number of applications that are at the preliminary assessment stage;
  • the number of decisions that the Minister has made; and
  • any other information that the Minister considers appropriate.
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