Ontario Targets Criminal Justice Court Delays



    McGuinty Government Launches "Justice On Target" Strategy

    TORONTO, June 3 /CNW/ -

    NEWS

    Under the province's new Justice on Target strategy, Ontario is setting
targets to reduce court delays and appearances by 30 per cent over the next
four years.
    This is the first time the province has set targets to reduce the
provincial average of days and court appearances needed to complete a criminal
case.
    To ensure transparency and accountability, the province is also making
available criminal court statistics
(http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot/stats_map.asp) to the
public for the first time. The public will be able to follow the progress of
the strategy (http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot/) and see
the impact on courthouses in their local communities.
    The multidisciplinary Justice on Target implementation team will be led
by Regional Senior Justice Bruce Durno
(http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot/explanations.asp) and
Senior Crown Attorney Kenneth Anthony
(http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot/explanations.asp). The
team will work with justice sector partners in local courthouses to develop
and implement new initiatives that improve coordination, focus justice
resources and move cases through the justice system faster.
    The first two initiatives
(www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080603-jot-bg.asp)
being implemented as part of the Justice on Target strategy are expansions of
programs that have proven successful in reducing court appearances and delays.

    QUOTES

    "Lengthy court delays are unacceptable so Ontario is moving to justice
faster," said Attorney General Chris Bentley. "We're targeting criminal court
delays and focusing attention on the most serious cases to increase public
safety and confidence in our justice system."
    "I am honoured to take on this important role, and look forward to
working with all justice partners as we work to build a more effective
criminal justice system," said Mr. Justice Durno.
    "By reducing the number of non-productive appearances we can better use
our resources to advance the public safety and confidence in the criminal
justice system," said Kenneth Anthony.

    QUICK FACTS

    
    -  With 600,000 charges entering the system every year, saving one minute
       per charge could save seven years of court time.
    -  In 1992, it took an average of 4.3 court appearances to complete a
       criminal case. By last year, this figure had more than doubled to
       9.2 appearances.
    -  In 1992, cases were in the system for an average of 115 days. By last
       year, the number had jumped to 205 days.
    -  Recent provincial investments in the criminal justice system include:
       -  Hiring 1,000 additional police officers and more than 220 Crown
          attorneys
       -  Appointing 24 additional judges and 45 additional justices of the
          peace
       -  Dedicating over $68 million to fight gun crime.
    

    LEARN MORE

    Read more about the Justice on Target implementation team leaders and
their responsibilities
(www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/news/2008/20080603-jot-bg.asp)

    View statistics for criminal proceedings from every courthouse in Ontario
(http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot/stats_map.asp)

    
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                                             ontario.ca/attorneygeneral-news
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    BACKGROUNDER
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                              JUSTICE ON TARGET
    

    Justice on Target is the province's strategy to reduce delay in Ontario's
criminal courts.

    TARGETS

    Ontario will achieve faster, focused justice by targeting 30 per cent
reductions in the provincial average of days and court appearances needed to
complete a criminal case. The province plans to meet its target in four years.

    TRANSPARENCY

    Ontarians can follow the progress of courts in their local community
towards reaching the targets through a transparent new Justice on Target
website, which for the first time makes criminal case statistics dating back
to 2000 (http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot/stats_map.asp)
publicly available.

    LEADERS

    Senior Regional Justice Bruce Durno
(http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot/explanations.asp) has
been appointed to lead the Justice on Target strategy, and Senior Crown
Attorney Kenneth Anthony
(http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/jot/explanations.asp) has
been appointed as the ministry's senior lead.
    Mr. Justice Durno was appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Justice
in 1998, and has served as Regional Senior Justice for the Central West region
since 2000. Prior to his appointment to the bench, Mr. Justice Durno was a
criminal defence lawyer and served as president of the Criminal Lawyers'
Association.
    Kenneth Anthony has been a prosecutor with the Ministry of the Attorney
General since 1976. In that time, he has served as Crown Attorney in
Scarborough and the District of Muskoka. Most recently, Mr. Anthony was a
senior legal expert to a ministry team working on measures to increase the
effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

    
    Mr. Justice Durno and Mr. Anthony will:
    -  Oversee an implementation team working on the ground in local
       courthouses
    -  Engage the Judiciary, the Criminal Defence bar, Crown prosecutors and
       the police
    -  Develop and implement new initiatives to help meet the target
    -  Report to a results table chaired by Attorney General Chris Bentley.
    

    Mr. Justice Durno, Mr. Anthony and the implementation team will work
collaboratively with the partners in Ontario's justice system to get advice
and identify further initiatives to help meet the province's target. The team
will then put these initiatives into action, measure progress and adjust
course as necessary.
    Two successful initiatives are being expanded to help meet the province's
target: Dedicated Prosecution and On-Site Legal Aid.

    DEDICATED PROSECUTION

    Dedicated Prosecution is an innovative system that changes the way cases
are managed by Crown prosecutors. It allows them to continually monitor the
progress of their cases and make appropriate decisions earlier in the court
process. This helps reduce the time needed to resolve a case, and allows more
cases to move through the system faster and more effectively.
    Under Dedicated Prosecution, small tight-knit teams of Crown prosecutors
and support staff are given ownership of cases from the beginning of the court
process until the case is resolved, or until it proceeds to trial.
Traditionally, several Crown attorneys could deal separately with a criminal
case before it is resolved. Each one would need to be familiar with the case
file, the accused and their counsel, increasing the time it takes to resolve
the case.
    As part of the Justice on Target strategy, the province aims to have
Dedicated Prosecution operating in all 17 high volume court locations in the
province by the end of the year.

    ON-SITE LEGAL AID

    Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) currently accepts on-site applications in nine
Ontario courthouses. To help meet its target, the province will work with LAO
to place legal aid application offices in an additional 17 criminal court
locations in Ontario in the coming months. Once open, on-site legal aid
offices will be operating in 26 courthouses serving almost 80 per cent of
criminal legal aid clients province-wide.
    In these locations, an accused person can apply for legal aid on-site
and, if successful, could retain a lawyer more quickly. Getting a lawyer on
the case faster can help reduce the number of appearances needed to resolve a
case, and allow more cases to move through the system more effectively.
    LAO is also innovating a simplified online application process. LAO staff
will be able to help a client apply for a legal aid certificate online and if
approved, print it right away. This service will also be expanded in the
coming months to allow defence counsel and caseworkers to access the system.

    JUSTICE ON TARGET AND THE CODE/LESAGE REVIEW

    The Justice on Target strategy is focused on the everyday cases that make
up 90 per cent of the Ontario criminal justice system. In February Attorney
General Chris Bentley asked the Honourable Patrick LeSage and Professor
Michael Code to lead a review of the way we deal with the other 10 per cent -
the large and complex criminal cases.
    This review will address systemic issues and help to develop solutions
for everyone involved in the justice system with the goal of moving cases
through the system faster and more effectively.

    
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                                             ontario.ca/attorneygeneral-news
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    BACKGROUNDER
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                        SUPPORT FOR JUSTICE ON TARGET
    

    Today Ontario launched Justice on Target, the province's plan for faster,
focused criminal justice by targeting 30 per cent reductions in the provincial
average of days and court appearances needed to complete a criminal case.

    Here's what people are saying about the new strategy:

    "Access to justice is the key issue facing Ontario's justice system
today," said the Honourable Warren Winkler, Chief Justice of the Court of
Appeal for Ontario. "I applaud the Attorney General for taking decisive action
to reduce delays in our criminal courts. This initiative serves as an
important step to enhancing timely, accessible and effective criminal
justice."
    "Attorney General Chris Bentley is to be commended for once again showing
leadership and initiative to strengthen and improve our justice system," said
Gavin MacKenzie, Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada.
    "The members of the Criminal Lawyers Association, Canada's largest
criminal law speciality organization, are pleased that the Attorney General is
looking for more effective ways to deliver justice," said Frank Addario,
President of the Criminal Lawyers Association. "The members of the independent
criminal bar are keenly aware of the impact that the ineffective use of
resources has on access to justice. We think delay reduction targets are a
good first step."
    "The Police Association of Ontario supports this initiative. We believe a
more effective justice system will lead to safer communities," said Bruce
Miller, Chief Administrative Officer of the Police Association of Ontario.
    "The Ontario Bar Association has been a strong, consistent voice for
accountability and transparency in Ontario's justice system," said Greg
Goulin, President of the Ontario Bar Association. "We believe that the
measures outlined to reduce delay and refocus criminal justice are a major
step forward to improving effectiveness and restoring the confidence of the
public and the legal profession."
    "The County and District Law Presidents' Association (CDLPA) is pleased
this issue is being addressed. CDLPA's own Judicial Resources Survey
identified, among other things, the need for just such an initiative," said
Randall S. Bocock, Chair of CDLPA. "CDLPA looks forward to working with the
Ministry of the Attorney General on the implementation details."
    "Legal Aid Ontario is committed to working with the province to make the
criminal justice system more effective for all of its users," said John
McCamus, Chair of Legal Aid Ontario.

    
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                                             ontario.ca/attorneygeneral-news
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For further information:

For further information: Sheamus Murphy, Ministry of the Attorney
General, Minister's Office, (416) 326-1785; Brendan Crawley, Ministry of the
Attorney General, Communications Branch, (416) 326-2210

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