JustFacts

Jordan: Statistics Related to Delay in the Criminal Justice System

PDF Version

December 2017

Research and Statistics Division

This fact sheet is based on publicly available data from Statistics CanadaFootnote 1 and provincial databases, a number of Justice Canada, Canadian government (federal and provincial/territorial) and academic studies released from 2009 to 2017, as well as data from an internal research report prepared by Justice Canada in 2013.

The overall length of time to complete adult criminal cases in Canada has been steady for the past three years but it has increased from a decade agoFootnote 2

In 2015/2016, the median length of time from an individual’s first court appearance to the completion of their case was 127 days (around 4 months), which was the same as the two previous years. The 2015/2016 time to case completion is seven days longer than 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 and three days longer than a decade ago (2005/2006). Looking at the last decade, the last three reporting years have the highest national case processing time.

Median length of cases completed in adult criminal court by province and territory, 2005/2006 and 2015/2016

Text version: Chart 1: Median length of cases completed in adult criminal court by province and territory, 2005/2006 and 2015/2016

A horizontal bar chart illustrates the number of cases completed in adult criminal court. The Y axis lists the provinces and territories as follows from top to bottom: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut. The Y axis provides two measures for each province and territory: one for 2005/2006 and one for 2015/2016. The X axis presents the median length of cases. This axis is measured in number of days and increases in increments of 25 from 0 to 250.

The median length of cases for Newfoundland and Labrador was 113 in 2005/2006 and 171 in 2015/2016; for Prince Edward Island – 33 in 2005/2006 and 37 in 2015/2016; for Nova Scotia – 125 in 2005/2006 and 170 in 2015/2016; for New Brunswick – 74 in 2005/2006 and 105 in 2015/2016; for Quebec – 182 in 2005/2006 and 228 in 2015/2016; for Ontario – 120 in 2005/2006 and 112 in 2015/2016; for Manitoba – 121 in 2005/2006 and 145 in 2015/2016; for Saskatchewan – 91 in 2005/2006 and 74 in 2015/2016; for Alberta – 120 in 2005/2006 and 124 in 2015/2016; for British Columbia – 111 in 2005/2006 and 100 in 2015/2016; for Yukon – 85 in 2005/2006 and 85 in 2015/2016; for Northwest Territories – 23 in 2005/2006 and 72 in 2015/2016; and for Nunavut – 102 in 2005/2006 and 71 in 2015/2016.

The chart also presents two vertical lines across the bar chart that represent the median length of cases for Canada, in 2005/2006 (124 days) and 2015/2016 (127 days).

Source: Statistics Canada. Adult criminal courts, cases by median elapsed time in days, CANSIM Table 252-0055. (Accessed: December, 27th, 2017).

The length of time to complete adult criminal court cases varies significantly across jurisdictionsFootnote 3

In 2015/2016, the median number of days to complete adult criminal cases was highest in Quebec (228 days)Footnote 4, Newfoundland/Labrador (171 days), Nova Scotia (170 days), and Manitoba (145 days) (see Chart 1). Compared to a decade ago (2005/2006), all jurisdictions have seen increases in the time to complete cases, except for Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Nunavut where decreases were observed.

The median number of appearances to complete an adult criminal case remained unchanged over the past decadeFootnote 5

In 2015/2016 the median number of appearances it took to complete a case was five, a number which has been consistent over the last 10 years.

Cases involving more serious offences or cases involving multiple charges take longer to completeFootnote 6

In 2015/2016, homicide cases took a median of 469 days and required a median of 16 appearances to complete, while cases involving administration of justice offences were completed in almost three months (81 days) and required a median of five appearances. Similarly, in 2015/2016, cases involving multiple charges (i.e., 62% of all cases) took five months to complete (154 days) while cases with a single charge (i.e., 38%) took about three months to complete (92 days).Footnote 7

Superior court cases required more days and appearances to complete than provincial court casesFootnote 8

In 2015/2016, provincial court cases (i.e., 99% of the completed case load that year) had a median case length of 127 days, and a median of five appearances. Superior court cases (i.e., which include some of the most serious offences) had a median case length of 593 days, and a median of 11 appearances.

The majority of provincial and superior court charges are completed within the presumptive ceilings; this proportion varies across jurisdictionsFootnote 9

Across Canada, 94% of provincial court charges were completed within 18 months (or 30 months with a preliminary inquiry), a trend that has remained steady for the past decade.  In superior court, 85% of court charges were completed within the 30 month ceiling. Jurisdictions with the highest proportion of charges completed above the presumptive ceiling include Quebec (17% and 21%), Newfoundland/Labrador (7% and 35%) and Nova Scotia (7% and 14%) (see Chart 2).

Percentage of charges completed above the presumptive ceiling, by province and territory, 2015/2016

Text version: Chart 2: Percentage of charges completed above the presumptive ceiling, by province and territory, 2015/2016

A vertical bar chart illustrates the percentage of charges completed above presumptive ceiling. The Y axis is measured in percentages and increases in increments of five percent from 0 to 40. The X axis lists the provinces and territories as follows from left to right: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut. The X axis provides two measures for each province and territory: one for Provincial Court cases and one for Superior Court cases.

The percentage of charges completed above the presumptive ceiling for Newfoundland and Labrador was 7 in Provincial Court and 35 in Superior Court; for Prince Edward Island – 0 in Provincial Court and N/A in Superior Court; for Nova Scotia – 7 in Provincial Court and 14 in Superior Court; for New Brunswick – 4 in Provincial Court and 0 in Superior Court; for Quebec – 17 in Provincial Court and 21 in Superior Court; for Ontario – 4 in Provincial Court and N/A in Superior Court; for Manitoba – 7 in Provincial Court and N/A in Superior Court; for Saskatchewan – 3 in Provincial Court and N/A in Superior Court; for Alberta – 3 in Provincial Court and 7 in Superior Court; for British Columbia – 2 in Provincial Court and 4 in Superior Court; for Yukon – 2 in Provincial Court and 0 in Superior Court; for Northwest Territories – 3 in Provincial Court and 0 in Superior Court; and for Nunavut – 2 in Provincial Court and N/A in Superior Court.

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS).

Legal representation is shown to impact case processing timeFootnote 10

Data from Justice Canada’s Justice Effectiveness study indicate that legal representation was shown to be a factor associated with case processing time. Cases with intermittent legal representation required, on average, 298 days to reach conclusion. In comparison, cases with total representation took an average of 160 days and those with no representation took an average of 189 days to reach completion.Footnote 11

Preliminary inquiries may impact the amount of time required for case completion

In 2015/2016, the majority (81%) of adult criminal court cases (completed in provincial and superior court) that had at least one charge with a preliminary inquiry requested and/or held were completed in less than 30 months. The remaining cases (19%) took 30 months or longer to complete.Footnote 12

Preliminary Inquiries have decreased over the last 10 yearsFootnote 13

The number of preliminary inquiries, that were scheduled and/or held, for the most serious offence in the case, has decreased by 36% over the last ten years (including adults and youth - see Chart 3).

Number of preliminary inquiries for the most serious offence in the case, Canada, 2006/2007 to 2015/2016

Text version: Chart 3: Number of preliminary inquiries for the most serious offence in the case, Canada, 2006/2007 to 2015/2016

A vertical bar chart illustrates the distribution of the number of preliminary inquiries scheduled and/or held for the most serious offence in the case. The Y axis is measured in numbers inscribed at the top of each bar. The X axis is divided into 10 increments for each year from 2006/2007 to 2015/2016 (i.e., from left to right: 2006/2007, 2006/2007, 2007/2008, 2008/2009, 2009/2010, 2010/2011, 2011/2012, 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016). In 2006/2007, the were 11,218 preliminary inquiries scheduled and/or held for the most serious offence in the case; 11,192 in 2007/2008; 11,787 in 2008/2009; 11,218 in 2009/2010; 10,094 in 2010/2011; 10,017 in 2011/2012; 10,130 in 2012/2013; 9,677 in 2013/2014; 9,465 in 2014/2015; and 8,225 in 2015/2016.

The time adult accused spend on remand has increased or stayed the same for most jurisdictionsFootnote 14

When compared to 2005/2006, figures from 2015/2016 indicate that the median number of days adults spent in remand remained the same in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Ontario (29%), British Columbia (33%), Yukon (27%), Northwest Territories (82%), and Nunavut (82%) all experienced increases in the median number of days adults spent in remand. Nova Scotia was the only jurisdiction to see a decrease (-14%).

Research has indicated that a “culture of adjournment” has resulted in delays in court

A study conducted in eight courts across Ontario, from 2006 to 2008, indicated that a significant number of bail hearings were routinely adjourned; on an average day, bail decisions were delayed for between 57% and 81% of cases.Footnote 15 Similar results were found by another study conducted in five jurisdictions in 2013, where on average each day, about 54% of all cases observed were adjourned. This proportion varied by jurisdiction.Footnote 16

Median case processing time for charges with a mandatory minimum penalty (MMP) increased Footnote 17

The median case processing time for MMP charges shows a general increasing trend over time. Between 2000/2001 and 2013/2014, the number of days from first appearance to decision increased 54%, from 208 days to 321 days

Administration of justice offence (AOJO)Footnote 18 charges have increased over time and represent one quarter of all cases in adult criminal court

While the overall rate of charging has declined over the years, the rate of persons charged for administration of justice offences (AOJO) has increased 26% over the last ten years (from 412 incidents per 100,000 population in 2006 to 519 incidents per 100,000 population in 2016).Footnote 19 In 2015/2016, there were 77,993 AOJO casesFootnote 20 in adult criminal court, representing 23% of all criminal court cases.Footnote 21 In 2015/2016, 42% of AOJOs in adult criminal court were for failure to comply with an order, 39% were for breach of probation, and 10% were other administration of justice offences.Footnote 22

Impaired driving court cases represent one in ten criminal court cases and have seen a significant decrease in their case processing timeFootnote 23

There were 35,379 impaired driving cases in adult criminal court in 2015/2016, down 29% from 2010/2011.Footnote 24 These cases represent 10% of all criminal courtcases heard in adult court in 2015/2016. 

In 2005/2006 the median case processing time for impaired driving offences was 158 days. The most recent data for 2015/2016 shows the median case processing time for impaired driving cases has dropped to 106 days, which brings this offence in line with some of the shortest case processing times, such as drug possession which has a median case processing time of 99 days, administration of justice offences which have a median case processing time of 81 days, and offences against property which have a median case processing time of 113 days.

Alternative means of dealing with certain types of offences have resulted in a reduced clearance rate by charge under the Criminal CodeFootnote 25

In British Columbia, since 2011, impaired driving cases have been dealt with under the Motor Vehicle Act. Police-reported data from BC show a gradual decline in the number of police-reported Criminal Code impaired driving incidents in the province since the implementation of the Immediate Roadside Prohibition in 2011 (see Chart 4). The clearance rate by charge under the Criminal Code fell from 69% in 2009 to 27% in 2011.Footnote 26

Police-reported impaired driving incidents, British Columbia, 2009-2016

Text version: Chart 4: Police-reported impaired driving incidents, British Columbia, 2009-2016

A vertical bar chart illustrates the distribution of the number of preliminary inquiries scheduled and/or held for the most serious offence in the case. The Y axis is measured in numbers inscribed at the top of each bar. The X axis is divided into 10 increments for each year from 2006/2007 to 2015/2016 (i.e., from left to right: 2006/2007, 2006/2007, 2007/2008, 2008/2009, 2009/2010, 2010/2011, 2011/2012, 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016). In 2006/2007, the were 11,218 preliminary inquiries scheduled and/or held for the most serious offence in the case; 11,192 in 2007/2008; 11,787 in 2008/2009; 11,218 in 2009/2010; 10,094 in 2010/2011; 10,017 in 2011/2012; 10,130 in 2012/2013; 9,677 in 2013/2014; 9,465 in 2014/2015; and 8,225 in 2015/2016.

Date modified: