Ontario Courts Are in Need of Technological Updates
Many criminal defence lawyers, crown counsel, Justices and court staff have been subject to the delay and difficulty caused by the system of maintaining Informations on paper rather than organizing them in a computer data base.
In Canada, an Information, identifies the charges under the Criminal Code, either by summary or by indictment, that an accused person is facing.
The information contains allegation that an offence(s) has been committed by the accused.
An Information is contained on a few pieces of paper that outlines the charge(s) as well as past and future court dates for the accused.
If an Information is not present in court on the date that the accused's matter is before the court, the matter cannot be heard.
When this occurs it causes lengthy delay and inefficiency. If informations were accessible on a computer data base, much delay could be avoided.
The current system of maintaining paper Information is archaic the slows the criminal court process down significantly.
Delays has become an important issue to people facing criminal offence charges since the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2016 ruling R v. Jordan. With Jordan, the Supreme Court set strict timelines to bring criminal cases to trial: 18 months in provincial court and 30 months in Superior Court.
If an accused's matter is delayed as result of the Crown or Court beyond the time limits set out in Jordan, it is considered a violation of the accused's right to be tried within a reasonable time.
Section 11(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states that any person charged with an offence has the right to be tried within a reasonable time.
Such a Charter of Rights and Freedoms rights violation can be cause for the criminal offence charges against an accused to be stayed.
A Stay of Proceedings is the most drastic of remedies available to a court. As the Supreme Court of Canada stated: "Charges that are stayed may never be prosecuted; an alleged victim will never get his or her day in-Court; society will never have the matter resolved by a trier of fact. For these reasons, a stay is reserved for only those cases of abuse where a very high threshold is met ".
As such, in the case of an 11(b) violation an accused must have a skilled criminal defence lawyer demonstrate that the delay in their case was the fault of the crown or the court, rather than the fault of the accused.
Beyond organizing informations in a data base rather than physical paper informations, additional modernization efforts would improve delay in remand court.
Any modernization would be the responsibility of the Ontario Provincial government.
The Ontario Provincial government is responsible for funding the courts.
The Criminal Lawyers Association has advocated for technological improvements in the courts.
The Criminal Lawyers Association has suggested such changes as allowing criminal defence lawyers to conduct digital or virtual court appearances through email as a way to get the case moving forward without having to take up time and space in court.
Furthermore the Criminal Lawyers Association has also suggested that disclosure should be available online through a secure server accessible to the criminal defence lawyers, along with notifications when new disclosure has been added.