'Totally unacceptable,' Premier Kenney says of staying of hundreds of criminal charges

CBC News learned this week that hundreds of charges have been stayed at the Calgary Court Centre due to a shortage of prosecutors to try the cases.

Kenney reaffirms promise to hire 50 new prosecutors at a cost of $10M

Jason Kenney spoke to the media at Calgary's McDougall Centre on Tuesday afternoon. (CBC)

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has responded to a CBC News story reporting that hundreds of criminal charges have been stayed due to a lack of prosecutors, calling it "totally unacceptable."

CBC News learned this week that hundreds of people accused of committing crimes in Calgary — such as theft, assault, shoplifting and mischief — have walked away from their charges in the past year because there aren't enough prosecutors to run trials.

The numbers, which include people breaching bail conditions, come from the Alberta Crown Attorney's Association.

"I'm very concerned to hear criminals are getting off scot-free because of this, [it's] totally unacceptable," Kenney said. 

Kenney also reaffirmed that the government would be hiring 50 new Crown prosecutors, but the timeline for those hires was somewhat murky. 

"The minister of justice will be making an announcement about that in the not too distant future, but that was a strong platform commitment, a very clear platform commitment."

The 50 new prosecutors is not a new promise but rather a reiteration of the promise made in the United Conservative Party's election platform. It's estimated the 50 new prosecutors would cost the province $10 million. 

The platform also promised other changes in the Alberta Justice portfolio, including an increase of $5 million going to enhancing access to drug treatment courts, as well as a promise to do an "immediate review" of victim service delivery.

An ongoing problem

Charges being stayed due to a lack of prosecutors has been an ongoing problem in Alberta. Every week, an average of one full day of low-complexity trials are stayed, but there have been weeks when prosecutors are dumping up to three days' worth of cases.

Most recently, all cases set for Monday in Courtroom 507 were stayed by the Crown. 

About 350 prosecutors are employed in Alberta. Calgary General Prosecutions has 66 prosecutors. 

With 309 people charged per prosecutor, Alberta's ratio is the highest behind Saskatchewan.

For comparison, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia prosecutors handle an average of 193, 175 and 121 persons charged, respectively.

Kenney spoke Tuesday afternoon at the McDougall Centre in Calgary during a cabinet retreat.


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