Prosecutor layoffs will harm justice system, lawyer says

A St. John's defense lawyer says layoffs of crown prosecutors as a result of provincial budget cuts could cause significant problems in Newfoundland and Labrador's justice system.

Provincial family violence court also eliminated in budget

Defense lawyer Peter Ralph says prosecutor job losses could mean significant challenges to the provincial court system. (CBC)

A St. John's defence lawyer says layoffs of crown prosecutors, as a result of provincial budget cuts, could cause significant problems in Newfoundland and Labrador's justice system.

"There will be some charges that they'll have to either withdraw or not prosecute because of the number of prosecutors in the office," said Peter Ralph.

"I have spoken to many prosecutors about this since the budget announcement yesterday, and that's certainly the sense they're giving me."

On Wednesday, 89 cases were on the docket for provincial court in St. John's. (CBC )

Four Crown prosecutors in the St. John's provincial court office were laid off as a result of Tuesday's budget cut, leaving just 14 lawyers in the St. John's office of the provincial justice system to handle prosecutions.

Three of the lawyers cut were trial prosecutors handling about 300 files. The remaining prosecutors left will have to add those cases to their case loads. 

Ralph said the cuts would slow down the court system and delay trials. He said that it could mean some cases, such as shoplifting, would never be prosecuted.

"I think the minister should have a closer look at where he should cut," said Ralph. "And I don't think cutting Crown attorneys is appropriate measure at this point."

Family violence court cut

The provincial family violence court was also eliminated in Tuesday's budget.

The court was where people charged — mostly men,  would plead guilty to domestic violence — get counselling and be monitored.

A source told CBC news that the court was much more successful in reducing the number of reoffenders compared to the regular court system.

Provincial justice minster Darin King has said he will speak publicly about these cuts on Thursday morning.