Montreal

More judges, prosecutors hired to reduce delays in Quebec's justice system

The Quebec government says it has made strides in reducing court delays, and has hired more judges, prosecutors and support staff to address the backlog.

There are almost 700 requests for a stay of proceedings for unreasonable time delays

'We did everything we could to make it possible,' said Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée about reducing delays in the justice system. (CBC)

The Quebec government says it has made strides in reducing court delays, and has hired more judges, prosecutors and support staff to address the backlog.

Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée announced Monday the Court of Quebec appointed 16 new judges, while the province also recently hired 52 new prosecutors. Hundreds of support staff were hired to help unclog the province's court system.

"We did everything we could to make it possible," Vallée said.

But there are still several problems, such as waiting for Ottawa to appoint judges to fill the vacancies at Quebec Superior Court.

Vallée said she's encouraged by the federal government's announcement last week to appoint 28 new judges.

"We expect that eight...out of these 28 resources will be appointed in Quebec."

'Delays became completely unreasonable,' criminal lawyer says

Another issue plaguing the system are the 684 requests for a stay of proceedings.

In July 2016, the Supreme court issued the "Jordan decision", which set strict new deadlines on the justice system.

Less serious offences must now be wrapped up within 18 months and more serious charges, including murder, have a 30 month deadline.

It's resulted in charges being stayed and cases thrown out — from impaired driving and drug trafficking, to aggravated sexual assault, and even murder.

Philipe Knerr, a Montreal-based criminal lawyer, said the new appointments and hires are a step in the right direction.

"The appointment of judges has had a profoundly positive impact on the system. Now we just have to see if we have enough courtrooms for all these judges."

Most trial dates for this year are taken, 2018 is filling up quickly, and dates are already being booked for 2019.

With files from CBC's Sean Henry and Salim Valji

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