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Court delays

One of the biggest problems facing Canada’s Criminal Justice System is court delays. Although there are fewer cases that go to adult criminal court, increasingly individual cases take longer to complete. Additionally, the number of people who are in jail waiting for a trial has increased, and now outnumbers the number of people who have been convicted of an offence and are serving sentences. System inefficiencies can cause people to lose confidence in the system and costs to increase.

Transcript

This is a story from real people, told in their own words.

It contains information about themes that may be difficult for some audiences.

Mr. Swan

Just after midnight, on February 22nd, 2010, three individuals masked and armed entered my son’s home. About three minutes after they entered, my son was dead. Basically executed, shot through the back.

5 o’clock in the morning, we get a knock on our door – the police are there to let us know…

Mrs. Swan

Your son has been murdered. And I’m never going to see him again.

The Swans began a criminal process that has stretched over 7 years…

Mr. Swan

The three individuals that actually went into my son’s house and committed the murder were from Toronto, and one was a friend of a local fellow who planned it and set it all up.

There were three trials for the four individuals.

Canada’s crime rate dropped by 28% from 2006 to 2016.

Mr. Swan

The criminal justice system is a legal system. It’s not a justice system.

Mrs. Swan

There’s no healing process, because of these trials. Every time we enter that courtroom we relive the entire murder. Every single aspect of it.

Mr. Swan

This whole legal system is cold, clinical and lacks humanity. Separate bail hearings, separate prelims, separate hearings based on admissibility of evidence, appeals to go through – multiply that by three.

Mrs. Swan

The interpretations are different from judges to judges, or lawyers to lawyers, and defense lawyers to defense lawyers.

I read somewhere where they asked that the system be fixed, well it can’t be fixed – we need a new system that works.

60% of Canada’s prison population are people waiting for a decision in their case- they have not been found guilty or innocent. That’s more people in jail awaiting verdicts than actual criminals.

Mrs. Swan

The delays – we were really annoyed about the delays of the court system. It’s - you go in expecting a trial to start and it really doesn’t because anything can happen. The lawyers are not prepared, the defense has stall tactics, the accused, sometimes the accused didn’t show up on time, or the witnesses – they were unable to reach the witnesses. They were all delays.

So it was frustrating going through, knowing the dates of these trials and having to book those times off, and having to show up at court only to be told that “I’m sorry but it’s going to be delayed for another two or three weeks”. Or “come back tomorrow”, or “come back next week”. So that was very frustrating.

While the number of court cases has decreased by 20%, the median length of a court case has increased – up to 121 days.

Mr. Swan

The local guy, who’s out on appeal now, he lives about five or ten minutes down the road, in the neighborhood here.

Mrs. Swan

Where’s the fairness there? He murdered my son and he gets to walk around our neighborhood.

Mr. Swan

Here we are, almost 7½ years after his death, and we’re still trying to deal with his clothes. I couldn’t even touch his stuff for about five years.

Mrs. Swan

It’s been 7½ years since my son was murdered, and we’re still waiting for more trials and more appeals to go through the system.

Mr. Swan

And eventually, one guy that was just sentenced 12 years, his parole’s going to be coming up. Two-thirds so that’s only a few years down the line

Mrs. Swan

I feel there’s no end to this. There’s no moving on. There’s absolutely no moving on.

End

  • Canada’s crime rate dropped by 28% from 2006 to 2016. Between 2001 and 2012, policing expenditures almost doubled from $7.3billion to $13.5 billion. (Source: Fraser Institute)
  • 60% of Canada’s prison population are people waiting for a decision in their case – they have not been found guilty or innocent. That’s more people in jail awaiting verdicts than actual convicted criminals. (Sources: Correctional Services Program. 2017. Trends in the use of remand in Canada, 2004/2005 to 2014/15, Statistics Canada; Statistics Canada, Youth correctional services, average counts of youth in provincial and territorial correctional services (CANSIM Table 251-0008). Statistics Canada. Table 251-0022 Adult correctional services, custodial admissions to provincial and territorial programs by aboriginal identity, annual (number) (excludes admissions where Aboriginal identity is unknown)
  • While the number of court cases has decreased by 20%, the median length of a court case has increased – up to 121 days
  • Source: Statistics Canada, Adult criminal courts, cases by median elapsed time in days (CANSIM Table 252-0055).
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