MADD official upset with justice cuts

Christine Care, the secretary of the Avalon chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said she is worried about the message that budget cuts within Newfoundland and Labrador's justice department sends to potential drunk drivers.
Cuts to the provincial court system have many justice watchers concerned. (CBC )

The secretary of the Avalon chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) said she's worried about the message that budget cuts within Newfoundland and Labrador's justice department sends to potential drunk drivers.

"It [the cuts] just says to those who are doing this that, 'ah well, it's no big deal. I mean, so I'm impaired. And possibly, if I go to court, it will get thrown out. I'll take my chances,' " said Christine Care.

Last week, St. John's defence lawyer Peter Ralph said he feared cutting the number of Crown prosecutors at provincial court in St. John's from 18 t o 14 would mean fewer prosecutions and cases falling through the cracks.

In early March, before the budget came down, a case against an impaired driver was dropped due to a shortage of prosecutors.

"People die every day and are injured every day due to impaired driving, and yet a case gets thrown out for lack of prosecution," said Care. "It's mind-boggling."

Too early to tell impacts: minister

Darin King, the province's justice minister, said it's too early to gauge the impact of the cuts.

But he said he had already looked into the consequences of one of them, namely the elimination of the province's family violence intervention court.

"Last year the budget for family violence court was somewhere in the area of half a million dollars, a little more than that," said King. "And the numbers I'm provided with today indicate that 10 people availed of the full family court program."

However, CBC News has found information that indicates the family violence court completed 21 cases from 2012 to 2013. Twenty-three more cases are before that court, and two more are pending.

Cuts to other areas of Justice

The Legal Aid Commission has not yet revealed how it will deal with a $1.5-million budget cut, and the sheriff's office has not said how it will handle a cut from 40 officers down to 20. 

Meanwhile, Care was also the victim of a recent break-in and theft from her home.

"It was one of the thoughts that crossed my mind," said Care. "Will my case be prosecuted? And I think it is such an injustice to the public and the trust we put in our justice system."

Care said in her role with MADD, she will suggest to her committee that the group raise its concerns about the Crown prosecutor cuts directly with King.