The180

The Supreme Court of Canada 'got it wrong' when it tried to speed up trials, says legal society director

In a decision meant to change courtroom culture and foster a more efficient justice system, the Supreme Court of Canada has created new time limits for criminal trials. But lawyer Joanna Baron says the decision is too prescriptive and disrespects a fundamental aspect of Canada's legal system.
In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court of Canada has created new time limits for criminal trials. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Listen10:26

The Supreme Court of Canada says criminal trials happen too slowly in this country, and it has set out new rules to force a change of pace

Joanna Baron is a lawyer, and the director of the Runnymede Society. (provided by Joanna Baron)

In a decision that criticizes the country's legal system for a "culture of complacency" when it comes to delays in criminal trials, the court has set new ceilings on a reasonable time frame for an accused's right to be tried. 

From the time the charge is laid to the conclusion of a trial, a case in Superior Court will have up to 30 months to be completed. Provincial court trials should be completed within 18 months of charges being laid, but can be extended to 30 months in certain scenarios. 

While the ruling has been seen as an update or a kick in the pants to the justice system, Joanna Baron, the director of the Runnymede Society, argues Canada's top court got it wrong. 

None of the parties in the appeal asked for this...so the Supreme Court of Canada, these six judges — none of whom have been trial court judges for a very long time and who are in ivory towers cloistered in Ottawa  — came up with these numbers seemingly in a factual vacuum. - Joanna Baron

Instead of the 18 month and 30 month ceilings that the majority decision discusses, Baron favours the path outlined in the minority decision that she says clarifies, refines, and incrementally improves the current framework. 

Click the "play" button above to hear the full interview.

It's simply too blunt of an instrument, and this is the problem and the tragedy of the criminal justice system in trying to find a balance between clarity and efficiency, and I think the Supreme Court got it wrong here.- Joanna Baron

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