Now, here’s an idea…….

….let’s lighten the load in Ontario’s courts.

The Toronto Police Accountability Coalition received a small grant which it used for research on pre-charge screening, a practice where Crown prosecutors vet charges police wish to lay. British Columbia, Quebec, and New Brunswick were the models studied, and we’re quoting the results of the research from the TPAC Bulletin No. 104, June 12, 2017.

“The courts in pre-charge provinces have considerably lower caseloads, and average of 22 per cent lower than the other provinces. If Ontario used the pre-charge system established in Quebec, the case load in Ontario would have been 70,500 rather than 93,700. (Note: No time period specified by TPAC)

Multi-charge cases – often a sign of over-charging – are much less frequent in pre-charge provinces. Ontario has 1.5 times as many multi-charge cases per capita as Quebec.

In pre-charge provinces many fewer cases are either stayed or withdrawn. The number stayed or withdrawn in Quebec is 9 per cent; in Ontario, 46 per cent.

Pre-charge screening leads to better use of precious court time, as well as the time and energy of those in the criminal justice system, and protects members of the public from charges deemed no supportable by the court.”

More information is available from info@tpac.ca, referencing bulletin No. 104.

Bulletin: Pre-screening is not a new idea in Ontario……and TPAC is not the first to suggest the province could benefit from it.

A Globe and Mail editorial back on September 23 of 2016 commented on a MacDonald-Laurier Institute study which noted: “In Ontario, 43 per cent of charges laid are ultimately stayed or withdrawn. Of those that do go to trial, the conviction rate is just 55 per cent. Ontario has by far the lowest conviction rate in the country, and the highest number, again by far, of cases that are dropped.

In Quebec, where police must get the approval of a Crown prosecutor before laying charges, a mere 8.6 per cent of charges are stayed or withdrawn, and the conviction rate is 75 per cent. In British Columbia, where the Crown similarly has to approve charges, only 29 per cent of charges are dropped and the conviction rate is 70 per cent.”

How often police in Ontario overcharge to guarantee that something sticks is a subjective assessment, but it happens. Considering the complaints and concerns about court backlogs, the delays in bringing cases to trial, and the July 2016 Supreme Court decision in R v. Jordan setting time limits from charge to resolution, why wouldn’t the province have jumped on the pre-screening bandwagon?

Why not indeed? The question won’t get an answer, but it’s only too easy to surmise someone is protecting turf.

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