Triage protocol for Alberta prosecutors will hurt victims, opposition says
'We’re talking about victims who are not going to be able to seek justice'
A new protocol on how Alberta Crown prosecutors triage criminal cases is being slammed by the opposition as hurting victims and giving some criminals a free ride.
Progressive Conservative MLA Mike Ellis, a former Calgary police sergeant, said he is appalled over the government's strategy especially since he warned the government about a shortage of Crown prosecutors last year.
"We're talking about victims who are not going to be able to seek justice," he said. "That is what is deeply concerning for me."
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The nine-page protocol, dated Feb. 27, provides guidance to prosecutors on how to deal with an overloaded court system by focusing on cases that have a better likelihood of conviction.
"Prosecutions are not, and should not, be a business, but economics and efficiency have a place in prosecutorial decisions given the reality that resources are limited," the document states.
Ellis said the government has to provide the justice system with the resources it needs.
"What's the next step? Are you going to ask police officers not to make arrests?" he asked.
Backlog made worse
The protocol is set out as a way for Alberta prosecutors to deal with a backlog of cases that became worse following a Supreme Court decision in the Jordan case that sets out deadlines for when matters should go to trial.
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said the decision to prosecute will continue to be based on evidence.
"When the decision in Jordan came down, we had to respond very quickly," she told the legislature.
"That's why we've given prosecutors the tool to focus on serious and violent crimes. The triage protocol is explicit. Things will not be lost prosecutions merely because of timing, but prosecutors are empowered to make the decisions necessary to focus on serious and violent crime."
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean called it "unbelievable and disgusting" that violent criminals may not be kept behind bars and have their time in court.
"It sends the message to criminals that they can get away with violent crimes or any crimes," he said.
"And it sends the message to the community at large that you're even less safe than you were before when they were prosecuting more crimes. It's just unacceptable."